Thanos is a philosophical pessimist.
He believes in sacrificing half of the population to create less competition for scarce resources. He believes that this sacrifice is for the greater good. What if we took that one step further? If you could push a big red button that instantly and painlessly ends all life on Earth, would you do it?
When we think about the planet, we think about all of the positive experiences throughout our lives. Moments of ecstasy when acting on our hedonistic instincts. The sense of achievement after completing a project that took a lot of time and energy. The innocence of a child’s laughter. Watching a puppy dog see snow fall from the sky for the first time. The beauty in nature and art. How could we want these things to disappear?
Naturally, we think about our fellow humans. How could we end all of their lives? All of the innocent children in the world and our dreams of the positive changes that future generations can make. Ending all potential for us to accomplish great things.
We must also consider the other side of the story, the dark side.
Children sold off into the sex trade, mass starvation caused by famine, and various other humanitarian crises causing immense suffering all over the world. Every day people are abused, murdered, and starved to death. As the population grows we are forced to compete for finite resources. And this is only talking about humans!
Suffering doesn’t stop there. The natural world is a cruel place. Suffering is woven into the nature of life, with or without humans. Female praying mantis are known to eat the heads of their male counterparts after mating. Maggots eat their host alive. Animals must always be on the lookout for predators, humans included.
This button would end all life on the planet. No more animals would starve as they unsuccessfully search for their next meal. No more animals suffer a terrible death in the jaws of another. Is it not the noble thing to do?
We must learn to look beyond the simple pleasures we experience in life. Those who have lived an easier life, free from suffering, find it more difficult to consider this concept. This is a sign of privilege. The less suffering you have personally experienced, the more far-fetched it will seem. We must all try to think about those less fortunate than ourselves.
If we press this button, we will be helping those stuck in atrocious situations. Plus, if there is nobody left to enjoy the pleasures, nobody is missing out. Is there really a loss?
The important thing is that there will be no more suffering. Zero. Earth would turn into another moon peacefully orbiting the sun. It would be the most successful humanitarian campaign to ever be completed. An instant end to all suffering—war, famine, and abuse all gone instantaneously. If a few joys are lost in the process, is that such a difficult sacrifice?
Thanos is willing to sacrifice half of the world. I think he should go all in.
For those who believe the good in the world outweighs all of the bad—would you drink a fresh glass of water if there were just a few drops of poison inside? The world has many beautiful things, but I believe that they are poisoned by all of the suffering.
This all sounds dark, but I have written it to create hope.
Since we don’t have this option, we can all try to do the next best thing. Choose to live deliberately with a purpose, and reduce our suffering footprint as much as possible. With a different mindset, Thanos could use his powers to this end.
There are countless things that we can simply curtail or stop doing to decrease the amount of suffering in this world. Are our luxuries worth the suffering of others?
This is not only a call to action. It is also a call to inaction.
Also, read Robin’s story here: From Suicide to Success: How He Gave Meaning to his Life.