Porridge and 13 days

13 days is a long time -if you're waiting for something important to happen,
and it's far too short if you're on holiday.
I've just seen bits of the film '13 days',
All about the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Don't know how much of the film is true to what really happened.
But, it seems that we (the world) were jolly close to being blown apart.
(I wonder how close we are now.)
Our veneer of civilization generally seems to be pretty thin.
It doesn't take much to disrupt our families, communities, cities, economy, weather systems, etc etc. In fact, I don't think, deep down, we're very civilized at all.
Kind of makes you wonder how come we've survived fort so long.
In my case - I think I survive because I eat porridge every Saturday morning.

This posting of yours has certainly got me thinking. Ever heard of the “prisoner’s dilemma”? Without going into to details, it is a metaphor that roughly models situations where an individual faces the choice of either making big (and often transient) gains by going it alone, or instead sacrificing some of those gains by cooperating with a social group whose total gains are much greater than can be achieved by a set of noncooperatives. The dilemma, of course, is what is the individual going opt for – self or self-sacrifice? Day by day as we face decisions, which in one guise or another may present us with something similar to this dilemma, we teeter on the edge of the self-serving precipice. And perhaps that’s not too strong a language either, because as we face a cluster of issues like environmental stress, limited resources, aging population, an individualist ethic etc etc we may find that our ability to make choices for civilising cooperative action is increasingly circumscribed. Once civilisation starts to break up it does so catastrophically because the “look after number one” ethic kicks in with a vengeance, as people are anxious not to be losers in the resulting free-for-all. I don’t want you to be right about the thinness of the civilised veneer, but history does suggest that civilised cooperatives are a very up and down business and in terms of permanent civilised phase-states, humanity has NOT survived.

Let’s hope that we never have to face the dilemmas bound up with the vicious spirals of barbarity. In fact given our overall moral quality as a race and the great game of prisoner’s dilemma we are all involved in, the best choice may have been to stay put in prison where all choices are made for us. At least there we will get plenty of porridge, and not just on Saturdays.
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