In physiology, the term fight-or-flight describes the body reaction to an attack. After you freeze for a second or two, your nervous system produces a strong discharge that will give you either the strength to fight back or the energy for a fast escape. What determines which response will prevail is not written in your genes and we will never be able to predict it. It might be due to the situation itself, or to a general physiological or mental state, but the sure thing is that fleeing once does not mean you will do so the next time.
Lately, I have been reading a book about Frenches who left their family behind to work for the British secret services and help the Resistance, and together with the current situation, it got me thinking about the fight-or-flight concept on a higher level. I have the chance to possess a European passport that enables me to travel in most countries without any problem and even establish myself in many of them. That means that in case of conflict, I can most probably fly to another country, wait there for the calm to return and live through as if nothing was happening. In short: there is a pretty little chance that I will ever end up like the Syrian refugees who are reaching Europe after terrible trips, for those who succeed.
A (extreme right wing) French politician said about them that they should not escape but fight back and defend their country. They, on the other hand claim that they are protecting their family, hoping to give their children a better future. But if everybody leave, who will help those who could not escape to rebuild the country when it will all be over? Are they cowards to escape, or is the concept of State only a political invention to justify exclusion and wars? In that case why even bother getting involved and not just move somewhere else when things deteriorate?
Biologically, we are programmed to spread and protect our genes, so you could say that running away with your family is the rational choice, evolutionary speaking. On the other hand, tribes first and countries later emerged with the idea that their members are somehow genetically related and thus protecting the group would be a more efficient way to ensure transmission of one’s DNA.
The problem is that we are not bacteria fighting antibiotics and we cannot morally sacrifice our own children, or let the neighbor’s ones die without trying to help. So what is the answer? Is it okay to give up the well-being, maybe the sanity and even the life of our children for an idea bigger than us, with the hope that we can make the place where we live better for the future generations? Or are we only responsible for our family?
I don’t have the answer, and I am glad that this is not a dilemma I am being confronted to right now. But I have the bitter feeling that more and more people will have to face it in the future. I would be very interested in hearing your opinion on the matter…