We have been told all of our lives that any level of sacrifice is honorable, and leaders always portray people that sacrifice their lives for others as being the ultimate heroes. Many people have bought into this programming for several reasons. For most of us, our genetic propensity along with social training influences us to be decent and even protective of other humans, including strangers, but sacrificing one’s life comes almost entirely from self/social programming. It has been in our mythos and stories probably starting back since prehistoric times. People in power or positions of authority are the most effective at pushing the myth.
Granted, a mother’s instinct to protect her offspring at all costs can be overpowering, but for humans, our main genetic drive is for self-preservation and in propagating our personal genetic code by creating more offspring. We can only do that if we are alive. Self-defense is a genetically programmed instinct. With humans, unexpected threats elicit self-preservation behavior. If given enough time to think and react, some people can consciously overpower (or be programmed/brainwashed to overpower) self-preservation and die for the cause/belief/person/people.
When we hear of people risking their lives or even dying while saving people or even animals, most of us feel a sense of admiration — amongst other emotions — for the person making the sacrifice. Many of us think that we would do the same. We admire selfless acts of bravery and heroic deeds, and most people would not entirely reject the idea of being seen as a hero.
For some people, the job requirements dictate sacrifice — such as in the military. The overall plan is to live, but as a soldier you are expected to give your life to protect whatever it is that the leaders say you are protecting. Self-defense is completely justified, but if you agree to join the military, then you agree contractually to fight for whatever the leaders say, even if it is an offensive attack upon other groups/villages/countries/enemy. Your job is to act under the orders without question.
Some leaders have joined the battle for their own cause and even died, but most of the time, leaders have simply dictated the conflicts and have required all their subjects to die for the leader and the cause, and in most cases for a god-head or deity(s). Even in the case where a leader fought and died, they were probably succumbing to the voices in their head — erroneously thinking it’s some external higher power telling them to sacrifice, “…and don’t worry, you have a place here in heaven if you do this!” More often, the leader and the military elite remain out of harm’s way on purpose.
Although public service positions such as police and fire-fighting carry a huge risk, the mandates there are for self protection; more so for firefighters since police can be required to engage in physical battle with citizens or other internal threats. Firefighters increase the threat to their lives every time they are called to duty to rescue or protect life and property.
Some people can quickly assess a dangerous situation and make a calculated assumption about their chances of survival and then act, all within a fraction of a second. The willingness to gamble against the odds is another factor upon which we may or may not act. “Can I realistically save them with minimum injury to my body?”
Think about this: You are the most important person in your life. That concept goes against a life’s-worth of programming to the contrary, so how did it feel to entertain that idea?
Do you agree with that premise or do you believe that your spouse/partner, family, friends, or even pets or endangered species are more important than you enough that you would possibly sacrifice your life to save them?
Let us assume that there is no such thing as an afterlife. When you die you really die forever — the electrical and chemical occurrences in your brain which amount to your total consciousness — your mind your thoughts, your memories, your awareness — all cease to exists forever. Your very self flickers out of existence completely. Therefore, there is no afterlife reward for your good deeds and your sacrifice only succeeded in preserving another life and not your own. Would you be less apt to sacrifice yourself?
Although pets and other animals are important to us, do you really believe that their life is worth more than your life to the point that you would risk yours to save theirs? Conscious human beings add value to the world through conscious effort and creation. Animals cannot consciously add much to humanity. Some animals are critical to our environment and others have shown some amazing talents and intelligence such as artistic abilities and in warning us about danger, but can these same artistic and heroic creatures add other value such as hold a job or invent new technologies or processes or save the world from stupidity? All humans have the potential of greatness and in adding superb value to the world.
These will be hard questions to answer for most people, but it is important to challenge socially induced beliefs and become your own authority on everything that affects you as an individual — including your life and your freedom. Some people will still choose to sacrifice themselves while other people will adjust their personal importance to themselves in relation to the perceived importance of other people. Is it possible to consider yourself the most important person in your life and to choose to protect your precious life while still seeing the importance of preserving the lives of all others? If you want to be a hero or simply save lives then educate and train yourself to be prepared for most situations so that you can survive. You are priceless and irreplaceable.
We should be doing everything possible to protect our physical bodies and in saving our consciousnesses. I challenge scientist to come up with a device that will upload everything about the human mind upon catastrophic death and then download that person into a human body. I challenge people in medicine to find ways to rejuvenate and completely heal our bodies in order to extend our lives and keep us completely comfortable, healthy and functional. I challenge industry to replace humans doing dangerous jobs with machines.
If presented with the option of biological immortality, would that increase your willingness to sacrifice yourself?