Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Who Would You Choose?

Unwilling to leave my blog empty today, I decided to post a story that I have always wanted to share... I read this thought-provoking story from emails and websites, and it’s been one of my all-time favourites since I first read it. I googled for it and copied from one of the sources. The story is about children playing on railway tracks... Let’s get started:

A group of children were playing near two railway tracks, one still in use while the other disused.

Only one child played on the disused track, the rest on the operational track.

The train came, and you were just beside the track interchange. You could make the train change its course to the disused track and thus save most of the kids. However, that would also mean the lone child playing by the disused track would be sacrificed. Or would you rather just let the train go its way?
Okay, let’s say you are there, and you have no time to think over the decision. What would you do, in that split second?

Let’s move on when you have made the decision.
What is your decision?

Most people might choose to divert the course of the train, and sacrifice only one child. You might think the same way, I guess.

Exactly, I thought the same way initially because to save most of the children at the expense of only one child was a rational decision most people would make, morally and emotionally.

But, have you ever thought that the child choosing to play on the disused track had in fact made the right decision to play at a safe place?

Nevertheless, he would have to be sacrificed because of his ignorant friends who chose to play where the danger was.

This kind of dilemma happens around us everyday.

In the office, community, in politics and especially in a democratic society, the minority is often sacrificed for the interest of the majority, no matter how foolish or ignorant the majority is, and how farsighted and knowledgeable the minority is.

The child who chose not to play with the rest on the operational track would be sidelined if the train was diverted.

And in the case that he should be sacrificed, no one would shed a tear for him.

The friend who forwarded me the story said he would not try to change the course of the train because he believed that the kids playing on the operational track should have known very well that the track was still in use and that they should have run away if they heard the train’s sirens.

If the train was diverted to the disused track, that lone child would definitely die because he never thought the train could come over to that track!

Moreover, that track was not in use probably because it was not safe. If the train was diverted to that track, we could put the lives of all passengers on board at stake!

And in your attempt to save a few kids by sacrificing one child, you might end up sacrificing hundreds of people to save these few kids.

While we are all aware that life is full of tough decisions that need to be made, we may not realize that hasty decisions may not always be the right one.

“Remember that what’s right isn’t always popular... and what’s popular isn’t always right.”
So, now, who would you choose?

The first time I answered the question, I decided to choose to save more children, and hence I would divert the course of the train.

After reading the explanation, I thought that I have done the wrong thing, so I told myself, I would rescue those who deserved to live. But then again, who gave us the power to decide who to live and who not to?

And now being instilled with medical values, when it comes to human lives, we always aim for saving more regardless of their background, motivation of life or even criminal background. You can’t refuse to save a dying person even if he or she is a nefarious murderer or a rapist.

What should I choose, then?


Jimmy Tseng said...

Wow... that makes it so "thought-provoking"... But you were wrong in one place. If you did divert, someone WOULD shed a tear (wouldn't you?) considering you just sacrificed that poor child's life to save the others. I still think diverting is the proper choice, and maybe the children will grow up understanding the sacrifice...

youngyew said...

Thanks for your comment. It’s not me who wrote that I wouldn’t shed a tear (it was the original article), and I have no idea why no one would shed a tear. If I was one of the surviving children, I would certainly have shed a tear for my friend.

day-dreamer said...

I can't deny that this article gave my brain something to do.

Unlike you, I would not divert the train to the unused track. Who knows what lies ahead? Surely there is a reason (and a good one, I hope) the used tracked is built and being used. Maybe if I divert the train to the unused track, it might fall of a cliff a few kilometres away!

Well, if I can manage it, I'll probably shout to those playing on the used track to run to safety.

youngyew said...

When a track is disused, it’s used before and not used because of some reason, e.g. termination of service or diversion of railway route. However, in most cases, a disused railway track will not lead to a cliff, I believe.

sophisticatedsoul said...

I've read the story somewhere before this. And I especially like the part where it states that the kids playing on the track in use will be prepared to run for life when a train does approach.

Let's bring this scenario back to real life. Let the kids be likened to smokers. They know the risk of their act but they insist on doing it. Who is at fault then? They themselves. But still, as you said, when it comes to human lives, we want to save as many as possible.

And because of this, I would definitely not divert the train to the disused track and risk the lives of all the other passengers as I'm almost sure that the kids will run as soon as they hear the train's siren.