22 July 2016
Dilemma - "To have to choose one of two alternatives, both unfavourable; to be forced to choose between equal evils."
IN THE 1960s British philosopher Gilbert Ryle wrote an influential book entitled Dilemmas and this has become a foundation text for many Ethics classes to this day.
My late father once told me of a heart-wrenching dilemma in Papua New Guinea faced by his best friend from student days, Ernie Lemke.
After graduating in the late 1940s, Lemke ended up as a young missionary in Papua New Guinea with his lovely wife and first-born son.
They were travelling up the Fly river in the wet season on a mission boat when there was a fire in the engine room and the boat exploded throwing them into the river.
Ernie found himself floundering in raging water desperately trying keep afloat while holding on to his wife and son.
She cried "Save him! Save our boy!"
Lemke knew he had enough strength to take only one of them to safety on the riverbank, so he took his son, telling his wife he would come back for her.
He struggled against the fierce current and managed to land the boy safely on the shore before immediately diving back into the water to find his wife.
But she had been swept away and he could find no trace of her.
There is a similar heart-breaking scenario in the film Sophie's Choice.
When confronted with a life or death choice, what do you do?
You will find a similar dilemma and perhaps an answer in Thomas Keneally's great book Schindlers Ark (made into a Hollywood film by Steven Speilberg; but read the book, always better).
A similar dilemma also occurs in Mister Pip. Which is one of my favourite books.
Posted by: Bernard Corden | 22 July 2016 at 09:58 AM