Is Survival Selfish: Balancing Self-Preservation and Altruism

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Is Survival Selfish: Balancing Self-Preservation and Altruism

This essay will explore the ethical dilemma of balancing survival and self-preservation with altruism. It will discuss scenarios where individuals or groups must make tough choices between self-interest and helping others. The piece will examine psychological and sociological perspectives on this topic, considering evolutionary biology, moral philosophy, and real-life examples. It will also analyze how different cultures and societies view the balance between self-preservation and altruism. PapersOwl offers a variety of free essay examples on the topic of Altruism.

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Is Survival Selfish? Introduction and Context

Have you ever had a change in your pocket and walked passed a homeless person and didn’t give him the change? That was selfish. When someone asked you at the lunch table, “Hey! Can I have a piece?” and you said, “No,” that was selfish. The question of this Essay is, Is Survival Selfish? Now you could say No, Survival isn’t selfish, I’m looking out for myself first, or you could say survival is selfish, but I decided to be selfish.

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The two texts you will see will be “The Survivor” and “Who Understands Me But Me.” Survival is selfish; it has been shown through history and TV; you need to take care of yourself first before others most times.

Survival Through Literature: “The Survivor” and “Who Understands Me But Me”

The first reason that survival is selfish is that all of these stories/poems show that survival is selfish. When the author uses keywords like I and Me, it shows that the character in the poem/story is focusing on themselves; also, through history, it shows why you can’t always trust someone. There are countless examples in which someone trusts one another they were backstabbed by the person they trusted.
Jimmy Santiago Baca’s “Who Understands Me But Me” is filled with 1st POV, which shows that he’s only focused on himself.
Here are the examples of the poem “Who Understands Me But Me” (Page CR93, Baca) using 1st Person Point of View, “I Live Without Water,” “I Live Without Treetops,” “I Live Without Sunlight,” “I Live Without going anywhere.” Those are just some examples of Baca using terms that make it sound like this character is locked up and is making the character only talk about himself.

The evidence/poem shows that survival does require you to focus on yourself more than the people around you. The Next poem that I’m showing you support the claim that survival is selfish; it uses words like “you,” meaning that you should focus on yourself and keep yourself strong; this will show you what that means; Marilyn Chin, the author of this poem “The Survivor,” CR92, Uses the word “don’t” a lot in this poem, and also uses the word “You,” for example, “Don’t Tap Your Chopsticks” or “Don’t Throw Your Teacup” it’s like the poem is giving you advice, saying Don’t lose your temper or Keep it together.

The second paragraph showed that focusing on yourself and making sure that you are mentally straight before throwing away your chances of survival just because you couldn’t keep it together. These poems have shown you that a key part of survival is watching out for yourself first and others second.

Real-Life Survival: The Story of Juliane Koepcke

There are many examples that show selfishness, and to find a real-life example, we look at the true story written by Laurence Gonzales called “Deep Survival,” which talks about a plane crash where there were only a small amount of people who survived after the crash Juliane Koepcke decided to do what was needed by not telling the people that they needed to move instead of staying where they were, It was survival, She had very few supplies and her food was pieces of candy, this story happened on Christmas Eve, 1971 and we go through the story of Juliane Koepcke.

Juliane knew she wouldn’t survive knowing that helicopters or planes wouldn’t see the survivors, and with little to no resources to survive, she decided to leave and make her way through the Peruvian Jungle with what little she had; she was pregnant at the time the crash, Juliane’s parents were researches in the jungles, even though that Juliane had no survival training she remembered something that her dad said “If you go downhill, you’ll find water, and rivers lead to civilizations” and it was a good thing that Juliane left because the people who stayed ended up eating each other, Juliane eventually made it and survived in 11 days.

The Complexity of Survival: Examples from the Holocaust

Now, as it was said earlier that you could argue that survival requires people to come together and work together, and that side of the argument has some good arguments, but the situation has to be specific, you must have enough food, water, and supplies to keep everyone together and strong, but there are examples of that survival isn’t selfish and here are some examples of that.

This memoir by Elie Wiesel tells about what life was kind of like in the Holocaust. It required teamwork, sharing, and caring. One of the ways that survival showed that it wasn’t selfish is when the Blockalteste (Block Elder and inmate functionary in charge of a single concentration camp barracks) shared with everyone that was getting ready to go through the selection, the Blockälteste said, “Achtung!, Listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you” “You must try and increase your chances of survival” “Don’t Walk Slowly, run! Run as if you had the devil on your heels!” and what happened is the children listened and ran as fast as they can, to point to where SS officers and the doctors couldn’t see the kids numbers. And that was very helpful to the survival of the kids, but the older ones couldn’t really run and would have trouble, and if they slipped or fell and showed weakness, that meant they weren’t going to make it. But a poem earlier in this text said, “The survivor is almost always the youngest”. Even if you have you have a disadvantage, you shouldn’t give up, and that proves true for the child’s father, who had to go through a second selection, but he ended up living in the end. Even though the memoir Night has plenty of examples showing that survival isn’t selfish, it’s a specific situation like the text said earlier.

Conclusion: Is Survival Selfish?

In Conclusion, with evidence supporting that survival is selfish, it shows that you must take care of yourself first before others, depending on the situation. This Essay is not saying that you shouldn’t help someone, but when you need to survive, and you know the only way that’s possible is to leave others stranded or leave, then do it, don’t think of it as being mean; it’s survival.

Works Cited

  1. Night (Wiesel, Pg. 307)
  2. Deep Survival (Gonzales, Pg. 325)
  3. The Survivor (Chin, CR92)
  4. Who Understands Me But Me (Baca, CR93)
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Is Survival Selfish: Balancing Self-Preservation and Altruism. (2023, Aug 04). Retrieved from