Beliefnet
Everyday Ethics

I think I need to take a mental break from the race question, truly frightening schoolyard violence, health care reform, civility and the handful of other topics America is getting itself enraged over this week. So, let’s play a game. 

Most of us have played different versions of the who-would-you-save game. You know it, “If you’re in a sinking ship and you can either save yourself and your husband/wife from drowning OR you can save everyone else on the boat…but they’re all strangers. Who would you save?” 
I was laughed out of the room when I recently posed this dilemma to my friends, because I insisted I would choose the strangers. After all, said I, my husband and I could die together and with a clean conscience – who wants to live with the deaths of hundreds of strangers on their shoulders? Not I, I maintain (ed). 
“Pu-leeaaase,” scoffed my pals (all somewhat cynical males, I submit). “You would save yourself and your husband and you know it.” 
No way! Sure, dying is bad, something to be avoided at all costs, but I really, really don’t want to live with the knowledge that I could have saved a boatload of people, even if that meant my husband and I get 10,000 years of marital bliss.
Perhaps that’s not so much ethical as selfish – then again, isn’t most ethical behavior based on the premise of selfishness? We do unto others because we want them to do unto us. That’s not bad, it just is. 
So, tell me, am I full of it, as my friends so kindly say? Who would you save? Yourself and a loved one, or a boatload of strangers?
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