Home on fire…or not.

In By the Way, Your Home is on Fire, Rebecca Solnit posed an argument for divesting in order to remedy the potential disastrous consequences of climate change. She used the analogy, “Your home is on fire”, to instill a sense of urgency and called for actions to all individuals. Yet, is my home really on fire? That is the question we asked ourselves during class. I guess it is debatable. That fact that another person sees his or her home on fire doesn’t necessarily translate to another person having the same image.

With this, my classmates and I came together and brainstormed another possible analogy. It was longer and more difficult than we imagined. We went from a Titanic cruise scenario to a hijacked airplane but eventually, we decided on this: a shark swimming towards a row boat in which two rows of people carry a pedal each and are vital to success of escape. If a single person drops out, the boat would not be balanced and instead of moving towards a desired direction away from the shark, it will simply go in a circular motion. In this scenario, the shark serves as an immediate recognition of urgency and like the debates surrounding climate change, there is a grey area of urgency. Most of us would perceive a shark as being dangerous (possibly from the replaying of Jaws over the years) but in reality, the type and habitat preference of the shark are not known. Yet, in order to escape, every single person on the boat needs to participate and collectively, all holds a common vision.

Well. At this point, there was a question raised: What if there is a person who simply doesn’t want to participate?

We dropped silent and more questions came to my mind: How likely is that going to happen? Fairly. It’s analogous to what we define as being “optimistic” and “pessimistic”. Is it moral if other people on the boat decided to abandon this person who preferred to be dropped? Hmm. That’s a question of free will and social moral standards. I’m not sure.

However, one thing I know is the fact that our analogy has an underlying assumption that the sense of urgency is large enough for all the people to react and even more so, react positively with the hope of escaping the potential danger, the shark. It is not perfect though but I learned that in a society in which we praised individualism and freedom, groupthink seems to be a requirement of this scenario and counterintuitive overall. Where our analogy is constructed is perhaps how each of us perceives the context of the argument at hand.

For now, we have a shark, a row boat, and people.

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