Why, as human beings, are we so fascinated with our own destruction?
In the history of all things we are an incredibly young species but we have grown and developed extremely quickly, to the point where we’re reaching out and understanding the very things that make up the fabric of the universe. With all of this knowledge, comes great responsibility and I’m not entirely sure we’re the best curators for this task.
We are, essentially, animals. Strip away the rules of society, the laws that we abide by and the trappings of civilisation and we’re not much more than tribal mammals just trying to survive. Survival is our one, consistent motivation. Without the desire to survive we can quickly become our own worst enemy.
As a writer I am curious about how human beings react when the laws and rules of civilisation fall away. Take away the technology, the conveniences and the safety of the modern world and what are we left with? It is this raw state of humanity that fascinates me. Alone, in a dangerous and unpredictable world, what lengths would we go to, to survive?
As the human animal, we must protect what is ours first. This means resources and family. What lengths would we go to for those two things? Anyone that has children, you will recognise the furious almost primal desire to protect them from harm. That is our inner-animal, the most basic part of us and it is a dangerous beast in itself.
We are a dangerous species. Selfish, riddled with desires and with a tendency towards chaos. Once you strip away the confines of civilisation those ominous attributes rise to the surface as they become a necessary part of survival. I am reminded of an excellent George R R Martin ‘Game of Thrones’ quote; “There is a beast in every man and it stirs when you put a sword in his hand.”
We, human beings, make the post-apocalyptic world such terrifying place; not because of the end of all things, but because of what remains. I would like to believe the more honourable human traits of trust, empathy and selflessness would survive but I fear in the rush to survive, such ‘weaknesses’ would get trampled. Only once the initial disaster, whatever it may be, had passed, would there be room for unnecessary niceties such as trust.
Am I being harsh? Would the human species survive in an enlightened and caring way? Eventually, yes. We’re nothing if not resourceful and when it’s in our interest to assist others (only once the danger has passed) then we would. We’re socially attuned, recognising that there’s safety in numbers. Once we have those numbers, there must be rules to keep the society progressing and evolving. Civilisation is born again.
So back to my original question and why are we so fascinated by our own destruction? Because we’re just a little bit afraid that one day it might happen, and we’re afraid of what we would do to survive.