The purpose of this thought experiment is to demonstrate that our human nature is good – that we are naturally and instinctively self-less not selfish. I want to demonstrate that, when a situation demands much from us, we are more than happy to make great personal sacrifices for the benefit of others. When considering this thought experiment, do not just imagine yourself in this situation, but also those that you regard as perhaps not good human beings – not kind, not loving, not caring or generous, and try to be honest in how you think they would respond.
Imagine you are stood in a room with £10 of your own money. On one side of the room is a bottle of your favourite drink, and on the other side of the room is a starving African family, close to death. You can choose to spend your £10 on buying your favourite drink and leave the family to starve to death, or you can spend the money feeding the family and saving their lives. What would you choose?
Now, imagine that you are in the room with £100 of your own money. On one side of the room is an item of clothing that you really like, and on the other side of the room are twenty starving African families, all close to death. You can choose to spend your £100 on buying the item of clothing and leave the twenty families to die, or you can spend that £100 feeding the families and saving their lives. What would you choose this time? Think about it.
Finally, imagine that you are in a room with £10,000 of your own money. On one side of the room is the new car that you have been saving up to buy for the last two years, and on the other side of the room are one thousand starving African families, close to death. You can choose to spend that £10,000 that you have worked hard for on the car and leave the one thousand families to starve to death, or you can spend that money on feeding them. What do you think that you would honestly choose?
Imagine you chose to feed those families. Imagine the gratitude that they would feel towards you, and the sheer relief of parents seeing their children fed. I can imagine that some of us might hesitate, and I can imagine that some would feel a little bit disappointed to find themselves in such a predicament, but I can’t imagine that there are too many human beings on this planet who would make the selfish choice. Of course, there will be some who claim that they’d get the drink, the clothing, the car etc. and they’d puff out some bravado justification, but I wouldn’t believe them, and I think deep down they’d know the truth too.
And, why? Because we are human beings! We are that good! We really are. For all the horrendous things that we do to each other, it’s not who we really are, and it certainly doesn’t reflect our true nature. You can pretend otherwise, if you wish. You can act otherwise, if you want to. Harden your heart if you think that will protect you. It’s understandable. You can even laugh if you want to make out that you don’t care. It makes no difference. You will hurt yourself and you will hurt others, but it won’t be the real you, it won’t be how you really feel. For all the pain and all the suffering and all the anger and all the hatred, the truth is that human beings are good… truly, we are good.