It’s a cliche for monster and disaster movies—people panic-stricken running around screaming looking out for themselves, stealing what they can, falling into violence and chaos—but is it real? Some people looking into the matter say no. In fact, dealing with a huge disaster like the earthquakes in Japan or the Blitz in London actually brings people together:
The evidence gathered over centuries of disasters, natural and man-made, is overwhelming. The vast majority of people, when a disaster hits, behave in the aftermath as altruists. They organize spontaneously to save their fellow human beings, to share what they have, and to show kindness. They reveal themselves to be better people than they ever expected. When the social scientist Enrico Quarantelli tried to write a thesis how people descend into chaos and panic after disasters, he concluded: “My God! I can’t find any instances of it.” On the contrary, he wrote, in disasters “the social order does not break down… Co-operative rather than selfish behavior predominates.” The Blitz Spirit wasn’t unique to London: it is universal.
Pot shots at Ayn Rand’s philosophy aside, fascinating article. Score one for human kindness.