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灾难面前,你能不能做到那么勇敢?

作者: 2020-02-18 13:23:00 0

从乔恩·科莱考尔(Jon Krakauer)1997年记录珠穆朗玛峰攻顶之行的书籍《走进空气稀薄地带》(Into Thin  Air),到2013年的太空题材大片《地心引力》(Gravity),我们总在想,“还能更惨一点么?”灾难故事越来越惨,作为读者,我们的胃口却越来越得不到满足。

为什么这类书籍和电影如此引人入胜?难道我们只是着迷于他人的不幸?他人的运气越差,我们就越幸灾乐祸?还是面对那些潜在的伤害源,我们需要一个宣泄焦虑感的出口?在某种程度上,上述两种解释或许都成立。但我认为,我们如此热爱这些故事的另一个重要原因在于对道德选择的深度审视。

在最极端的状况下,登山者、宇航员、水手、徒步者以及飞机乘客会作何决定?换做自己,在类似情况下,我们会怎样表现?普利策奖获奖作家谢里·芬克(Sheri Fink)在《纪念医院的5天》(Five Days at  Memorial)一书中,生动描绘了美国一家医院如何应对卡特里娜飓风后的骚乱。按照她的说法,“在这种强压下,我们很难想象自己会作何反应。”当你阅读她的故事或同类作品时,你会不由自主地想要验证自己的道德理性能否经受住类似灾难的考验。你的行为会被自私自利或其他观念左右吗?

道德抉择问题是《纪念医院的5天》的核心所在。在书中的某一部分,芬克对比了同处于新奥尔良的两家医院:纪念医院(Memorial  Medical Center)和临近的慈善医院(Charity  Hospital)。它们都在飓风袭击过后经历了几天绝望期。纪念医院遭遇水灾与停电。在供应短缺,救援情况不明的情况下,医护人员给几位患者注射吗啡,疑似导致了他们的死亡。被注射的患者中,有些被指定为“不予急救者”,一人因肥胖而被救生机拒载。医护人员做出的注射决定是出于怜悯心,而非哪些做法更得当。后来,一位名叫安娜·波乌(Anna Pou)的主治医生因二级谋杀罪被捕。由于对她的声援日渐高涨,陪审团最终驳回了对她的起诉。

在邻近的慈善医院,事态则大不相同。医护人员继续为患者提供护理,尽管那里的情况甚至比纪念医院还糟糕。医院领导从未因为患者病情太重而把他们归类为不予急救者。这样看来,波乌及其同事的决定似乎不那么站得住脚。

根据定义,危机是置人于挑战中的情境。哈佛大学的拉克伦·福罗(Lachlan Forrow)是一位医学道德与临终关怀方面的专家。针对纪念医院医生实施安乐死的指控,他的回应是,“我们应该把那些超常的道德情境,看作展示我们最深层道德价值观的机会”。

写得最好的灾难故事中,角色面对的考验并不是非黑即白,而是呈现出不同色调。如果你置身于停水停电的医院中,需要负责命悬一线的病人,你会怎样做?如果你担任攀爬珠峰的向导时遭遇暴风雪,会不会撇下攀登者独自下山?如果你在“9·11”那天碰巧乘坐了美联航93号航班,会不会冒着生命危险与恐怖分子对峙?

如果缺乏这些道德选择的困境,灾难故事会变得苍白许多。《地心引力》虽然包含惊险情节与3D特效,但它缺乏人物做决策的情节,除了桑德拉·布洛克(Sandra Bullock)饰演的宇航员从头到尾都在决定继续求生还是就此放弃。记者尼尔·斯维登(Neil  Swidey)所著《受困海底》(Trapped Under the  Sea)也有类似问题。它讲述了一群工人1999年被困在10英里长的波士顿港海底管道里的故事。故事十分精彩,叙事动人,但当灾难降临时,被困工人所面临的惟一抉择困境就是是否寻找伙伴的遗体。然而,作者对故事中真正的道德困境——被困前,工程督导无视危险信号,执意让工人戴着有故障的呼吸系统进行作业——却着墨甚少。

哈佛商学院教授埃米·埃德蒙森(Amy   Edmondson)通过大量案例研究与文章,分析了那些最终导致灾难发生的失误决策,以及人们在灾难中不得已作出的艰难决策。她不仅展示了领导力失败的案例,比如美国NASA在挑战者号发射预备阶段作出的错误决策,也剖析了成功案例,例如2010年智利矿难救援中,救援指挥接受了24岁的年轻工程师提出的创新救援方案,最终促成救援成功。这种开明的决策需要勇气。如果负责救援的领导者当时更在乎根深蒂固的等级制度,那么他或许不会听取这样一位缺乏经验的年轻工程师的建议。

无论时局好坏,还是危机前后,领导力的效果依赖于领导者内在的道德感。如果领导者道德感强,那么在灾难降临时他很可能会做出正确的抉择,或者从一开始就避免灾难的发生。如果他们对道义的坚持不算“特别坚定”(借用拉克伦·福罗的话),那么他们在投机取巧时就可能播下灾难的种子,或者在灾难过程中为求自保,不顾他人死活。

看到灾难场景中的主人公,我们扪心自问,“我是不是和他们一样?不管我平时多么无私,在压力下我的道德指南针是不是也会失灵?”大多数人可能会把自己想象成英雄,在灾难中不顾个人私利,带领团队渡过难关。问题是,我们能不能做到那么勇敢?

There comes a point in every tale of disaster—from Jon Krakauer’s 1997 Everest chronicle, Into Thin Air, to last year’s blockbuster space movie, Gravity—when you think, Could it get any worse?

Of course, it always does. And as readers or viewers, we can’t get enough.

Why are these books and movies so compelling? Are we simply fascinated by others’ misfortune? The worse their luck, the greater our thrill? Or is it a need for catharsis—for acknowledgment of, and release from, all our repressed anxieties about the things that could harm us?

Perhaps both, to some degree. But I think another reason we love these tales is the deep examination of moral choices they often offer.

What decisions did the climbers or astronauts or sailors or hikers or airplane passengers make in the most dire of circumstances? And how would we behave in similar emergencies? As Pulitzer Prize winner Sheri Fink writes in Five Days at Memorial, her eloquent book about a hospital’s response to Hurricane Katrina, “It is hard for any of us to know how we would act under such terrible pressure.”

When you read her story and others in this genre, you can’t help wondering how your own carefully constructed but mostly untested moral reasoning would hold up in a catastrophic situation. Would your behavior be guided by selflessness, self-interest, or something else?

Five Days at Memorial is a fascinating story on several levels, but the issue of moral choice comes to dominate the tale. At one point Fink draws a comparison between what went on at Memorial Medical Center and events at nearby Charity Hospital in the desperate days after the hurricane hit New Orleans. Memorial flooded and lost power. With supplies running low and rescue uncertain, the medical staff gave several patients morphine injections that allegedly caused their deaths. Some of those patients had been designated do-not-resuscitate; one was considered too obese for airlifting; they were suffering. Compassion, not just expediency, appeared to motivate the health care workers. Indeed, after an attending physician, Anna Pou, was arrested on second-degree murder charges, there was a groundswell of support for her, and in the end, a grand jury declined to indict her.

Over at Charity Hospital, things were very different. The staff continued to provide care to patients, despite conditions that were possibly even worse than those at Memorial. Leaders never categorized patients as too ill to rescue. In that light, the decisions made by Pou and her colleagues seem less defensible.

Crisis settings by definition present extraordinary challenges. Yet as Harvard’s Lachlan Forrow, an expert in medical ethics and palliative care, wrote in response to the euthanasia charges leveled at Memorial staffers: “We should almost always see exceptional moral situations as opportunities for us to show exceptionally deep commitment to our deepest moral values.”

The best disaster narratives offer up those types of character tests—none black-and-white, all colored in shades of gray. If you had been responsible for patients in a hospital with no power and little food, what would you have done? If you had been a guide on Mount Everest in blizzard conditions, would you have left climbers behind while you descended from the summit? If you had been on United Airlines Flight 93 on 9/11, would you have risked your life by storming the terrorists? 

Sometimes the absence of moral choices can make a disaster story seem strangely empty. For all its thrills and breathtaking 3-D effects, Gravity was mostly devoid of character decisions, except whether Sandra Bullock’s astronaut should give up or go on. Trapped Under the Sea, a new book from journalist Neil Swidey about a disaster that left a group of workers stranded in a 10-mile-long tunnel beneath Boston Harbor in 1999, has a similar problem. It’s a vivid story, well told, but once calamity strikes, the only dilemma facing the trapped men is whether to try to recover colleagues’ bodies. The moral choices that truly mattered get scant probing; they were made earlier by the supervising engineer who implemented the workers’ faulty breathing system and pushed ahead despite warning signs.

Harvard Business School’s Amy Edmondson, in numerous case studies and articles, has analyzed both the flawed decision making that leads to disasters and the tough choices people must make as a consequence. Her work has showcased leadership failures (at NASA, for example, in the run-up to the Challenger explosion) as well as triumphs, such as the willingness of the head of the 2010 Chilean mine rescue operation to try an innovative drilling idea suggested by a 24-year-old engineer. That open-mindedness took some moral courage—a leader more concerned about protecting entrenched hierarchies might have ignored advice from someone so young and inexperienced.

In good times and bad, before crises and after, leadership quality often rests on the strength of leaders’ intuitive moral sense. If that sense is powerful, the leaders will probably do the right thing when disaster strikes (or prevent trouble from happening at all). If their commitment to ethics isn’t “exceptionally deep,” to borrow Lachlan Forrow’s words, they might find themselves cutting corners and thus courting catastrophe, or, in the midst of a crisis, pushing people aside to save themselves.

We look at the central figures in disaster scenarios and ask, “Is that a portrait of me? However unselfish I may be, would my moral compass go haywire under pressure?” Most of us probably imagine ourselves putting aside fear and personal needs to lead others through a crisis. But would we be that heroic? Could we be?

安德鲁·奥康奈尔是《哈佛商业评论》资深编辑,著有《〈哈佛商业评论〉中的统计数据与好奇心》(Stats and Curiosities: From Harvard Business Review)一书。

康欣叶  | 译 牛文静 | 校 万艳 | 编辑

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