At last night’s youth group I used the old ethics game that proposes a scenario in which nuclear annihilation is imminent, and the local bunker can only house 4 individuals/units. The question becomes who survives amongst a cast of characters – and who does not.
What was fascinating was listening to the rationale for the choices they made. The group was divided into guys/gals, which added another level to the conversation. The guys decided the pregnant woman with the 5 year old would be ‘annoying’, but that the drug-addicted hippie couple should be kept because “they would at least know how to grow something”. The girls chose the scientist. Neither group chose the Lawyer. Or the clergyperson, for that matter. 😉
As we went down the list, one of the young women in the group stated how uncomfortable the conversation made her. As we ticked through the list of why they thought folks weren’t worthy (mental illness, the elderly, the disabled) the discomfort in the group grew. I asked them if their list would change if they knew the race or sexual orientation of the individuals in question. More discussion. More discomfort.
When asked if this sort of thing ever occurred in the ‘real world’ there was silence. And then a few nods. We talked about discrimination and as they approached the age of employment and college applications how decisions were made. We also talked about how difficult it was to make ethical decisions in the ‘real world’; but how complex reality really is.
Would that some of the politicians (real and armchair) have some of the wisdom of these young people when they suggest simple solutions (like closing the borders to prevent the spread of Ebola to the US) to complex ethical problems. Heck, I’d be a bit happier if some of the talking heads confessed some degree of discomfort at what they are suggesting.
I wonder what the youth would have done if I added a politician to the list?