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Survivors: A British TV Show, A Verisimilitude to Life.

February 20, 2011


Survivors is a British TV show that depicts the aftermath of a flu virus. This wasn’t a man-made virus, not some terrorist plot, but rather a normal outcome of the natural world, similar to the Spanish Flu Epidemic. Anyway, this show is great because it depicts both sides of human nature, the good and the bad. What Hobbes and Solnit forget is that human nature is not just simply black and white. Humans can be good and bad. We can help in times of disasters like Solnit explains, and yet as she forgets to mention, we loot and attack others for food if we are desperate enough. Solnit’s beautiful outlook derives from a quick glance into a disaster. She only describes the situation a few days after it happens. Even with her September 11 example, people return back to normal after a few months. The nice-ities condense into the air and are gone. Also, what she forgets is that even with these disasters, there is an established government. The earthquakes or tsunamis do not destroy the intact government. Thus, though people help each other, there’s no permanent breakdown of government like there is in the TV show Survivors. Survivors is a real examination of life without government post viral outbreak. Solnit’s depiction is rather pleasant, perhaps too pretty, with neighbors hand-in-hand, but that’s only because food and shelter haven’t run out. The same neighbors she says helped each other out during the blizzard would easily kill each other a month later when food supplies ran short and they were still in the same condition, minus a government.

Hobbes however, falls into the same trap she does. He believes that we are all selfish creatures that need to be forcibly tied down by a strong figurehead. What he forgets is that humans are naturally sociable. We are creatures that from the beginning, before government, truly a “state of nature” were in groups hunting and foraging. Before the evolution of tribes and clans, we were still hairy primates and yet we were able to work quite well together, evolving to what we have become today. He like Solnit, look at human qualities as good or bad. Yet, like the TV Show Survivors, people do steal, true but they also help one another, giving food to children and shelter to those who desperately need it. Hobbes’ idea was also input into the show, where a strong leader, a former vice president of affairs started her own quasi-community. However, as the show and history demonstrates, her want for democracy is not as strong as her want for power and thus her community fails ideologically. Thus Hobbes’ notion that we must have a strong “monarchial” leader is invalid, especially if he demonstrates that human nature is inherently bad.

But if human nature is both good and bad, how do we only get people to show their good side? The fact of the matter is we can’t control how other people act outside the state of nature, as much as we can in a manmade state with government, etc. Even with government, people commit crimes and atrocities as well as doing acts of kindness just like in a anarchic state. The trick is trying to understand human nature better and promote communalism more and darwinism less than we do presently. Our society has become a continuous climbing of the social ladder, competing with our own species for “power” which in this case is wealth. If we constantly promote the need to beat everyone else instead of working together to get to our paradigm, then how can we expect ourselves to help each other when there is no government to help us?

  1. Emily Slaga permalink
    February 22, 2011 9:41 AM

    This was an interesting post and I enjoyed reading it. I’ve never seen the show Survivors, but from what I understand, it seems like a show depicting not only Solnit’s view of human nature, but Hobbes’ as well. That’s a refreshing thought because I don’t think it’s one or the other. It’s hard to say humans are all selfish or all good. We can do both selfless and selfish things in a state of nature, thus proving Hobbes’ ideas as well as Solnit’s. Like you said, the people in the show steal, competing for scare goods, but they also feed starving children and help others in need.
    This is a great example of what humans are really like. Neither Hobbes nor Solnit are completely right, as you point out. Humans are truly a mix of good and bad. We have our shining moments, and our not-so-proud moments.
    Though we do appear more selfish generally, like Hobbes suggests, in the dire times our good sides come out, like Solnit says. If we believe people are inherently good deep down in side, then there’s no worries of what we would do in absence of government amidst disaster, because I think we’ll shed the competitive spirit and bond together.

  2. snradin permalink
    February 22, 2011 11:10 PM

    I thought this post demonstrated an interesting way of combining both Solnit and Hobbes’ perception of human nature, but there is one aspect of the argument that I think needs some more consideration. I believe that when a disaster occurs, for example in Solnit’s example or in the example you provided with the TV show Survivors, the people in the disaster are not in a state of nature. They are coming from societies and communities where there is a government in place, whether this be a democracy or a monarchy. There are rules, regulations, and punishments in place by a ruler therefore they cannot cheat, steal, or constantly be acquisitive of more without being punished. When a disaster occurs, the lives of these people are shaken up—they are not sure whether they still live under the previous rules of their sovereign or not. It takes time, but eventually they regress back to Hobbes’ state of nature—a state where they are egotistical, selfish, and more than willing to cheat to get what they want. The transition stage is what Solnit focuses on and portrays as the “good aspect of the state of nature.” The only reason why the people act fairly and honestly is because they are in a transition from living under a sovereign to eventually regressing back to a state of nature. By taking into consideration that this “honest, good hearted” stage is simply a transition to Hobbes’ state of nature, it is clear that human nature is not as inherently good as Solnit wants us to believe. I think that, in the end, the state of nature cannot reflect both Solnit and Hobbes’ ideals—it can only reflect one.

    • chrisshu permalink
      February 23, 2011 1:34 AM

      Like in my post, I don’t believe Solnit’s depiction is just a transition stage into a Hobbesian state of nature. I think that even when people revert back to a state sans government, some are still decent and help each other rather than just themselves. I don’t think anything can ever just be black and white and that again is my quiff with both Solnit and Hobbes. I hope that clears any misunderstanding about my post snradin.

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