Sorry @Happyboy, I disagree with "Survivor Guilt".
I in no way implythat the original article is a bad article, or that Happyboy is a bad writer, or that he is ignorant or whatever! (I'm one of his sponsors for a reason!)
Ah heck, this will not win me any friends... again... but I feel I have to chime in here to put perspective diversity into practice. I do so hoping that the desire for diversity works both ways, but knowing it doesn't and that I'll have to make due knowing this will be only a practical example that is easily referenced.
I've started this article as a reply to an article by @HappyBoy, which you can read here. I want to thank @HappyBoyfor writing it and apologize for having a different opinion and view.
In the first example, the one with survival guilt could have chosen a different approach, choosing to take it as an opportunity. As soon as the grades came in, the educator's attention could have been drawn and could be informed of the improbability of one in the group getting a high passing grade for the same thing, the others didn't get a good grade for.
A single remark within earshot of the educator like, "Wait, this can't be right. The work I've submitted does not differ from that of them, so my grade should show equally little difference." should pre-empt the entire described situation.
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Even without that, there is absolutely no reason for acting the way described in the first example. The responsibility for checking and grading lies fully with the educator, so if any of the friends would have let that grade change their view of and behavior towards the individual with the high grade negatively it would have shown that it might have been high time the desirability of that friend or friend friendship was re-evaluated.
A friend will be happy for the high grade, and then try to work out together where the difference in grades could have come from.
The described feeling of guilt is entirely misplaced, but even disregarding that the described incident should never have gained such prominence and importance.
Even barring that, the notion that conscious thought must be given to how one should react towards friends does not square with the notion of friendship. One does not think about such things concerning friends.
One is who and how one is with friends because friends do not let their reactions and behavior change because of the reactions or behavior of that friend.
This is a foundational truth in friendship, but to a certain extent in life, it is seldom good to allow your reactions and behavior to depend on that of others. You should always react and behave the way you are and only allow the nature of whatever is being reacted to or requires a behavior different from your instinctive natural one.
If those reactions and that behavior spark negative behavior or reactions, those reacting and behaving negatively should be kept out of one's social circle, and interactions with such individuals or groups should be kept to a minimum.
The second example triggered me to stay in the theme's terminology. Let me state the most pressing "exclamation that will not allow itself not to be exclaimed" first and then move on to the specific addressing of the second example's content.
By not acknowledging, accepting, and appreciating the opportunity that surviving not only offers but comprises, the deaths of those that did not survive are cheapened. By allowing it, or using it, to be a source of negative influences or even damage, not just the deaths are cheapened, but the memories and the very lives of those that died are soiled and insulted.
If surviving is to have any influence on one's behavior and life (which it shouldn't) then it should be by instilling in the survivor the sense that the continued life one gets to live has gained more significance, and to make it the best life one can make it in honor of those who do not get to live one.
When I think about this, two things stand out in my mind. One of them is the story my dad told me and the other is one of the darkest events I have experienced in my life. I will bore you with them in the hope of providing some context through which you might understand how and why I feel about this the way I do.
First my dad's story. It is a story he told me only once, the one rare time that he ever opened up to me (and I think he never did so to anyone else, ever) about the Korean war.
My dad was a teenager during the second world war. He was 13 when the Germans invaded our country and he was 18 when the country was finally liberated. Besides some small measure of resistance, he felt he could do "his part" in the war's fighting.
His responsibility to his mother, father, brother, and sisters as the oldest son kept him from joining the "Engelandvaarders" as they were called. Those who crossed the North Sea to the UK to join the divisions of international armed forces and fight "de Moffen" until Europe was liberated.
Instead, he kept up his education and did all he could to keep his family safe and fed throughout the war but especially during the "Hongerwinter 44/45" a harsh and cold winter in which the Germans took everything edible or had value from the local population to survive and to be used in the German war effort.
For many Germans, that war effort consisted of staying alive and getting back to Germany for the "Verteidigung der Heimat" or the defense of the homeland.
This left the Dutch part of the country that hadn't been liberated, which was the half above the rivers de Rijn and the Waal, with nothing to eat.
The famine was so bad that my dad told me he and his brother went on savaging treks, on foot, walking over 50 kilometers each time, two or three times per week just to come home with only 2, 3 potatoes and half a loaf of terrible bread. It is well known that many people subsisted on flower bulbs during that winter.
So when the war was over, my dad joined the army and became a career soldier with the corps of commando troops. When the Korean war started, he was one of the first to volunteer and shipped out to fight for democracy and freedom, but for him, it was also to honor those who'd died liberating our country and fighting the Nazis.
He served in Korea from early after the landing at Inchon in September/November 1950 until the very end of the fighting on July 27th, 1953.
He only talked to me once about what he experienced there and I'll spare you most of it. It was horrible with winters that had temperatures of -20 to -30 degrees Celsius and summers with 35 to 40+ degrees Celsius and every ghastly thing that you can imagine a soldier in a war back then could experience. He told me about the fear which made him shit his pants when the big Chinese counteroffensive started. He also told me about "Korean baked eggs" (eggs baked on the hood of a jeep).
The story I want to talk about that relates to the article is the one about the last day of the fighting before the cease-fire went into effect.
It was July 25th, 1953 and he, as well as a few other brothers in his unit that had served throughout their tours of duty with him in that unit, had gotten their orders to return to the Netherlands and that their service was over. As a Sergeant, he was to go to some regional command post or center to get the documents and practical instructions for those going home and make sure everything was in order.
He went off in a Jeep in the morning while the rest of the unit went on patrol, including those who'd be going home the next day. When he got back with the documents, the unit had not returned, nor had anyone heard from them since the radio message. The unit was checking out some movement and sounds where there weren't supposed to be any.
When another unit was sent out to find his unit, he joined them, and close to the place, their radio message had said they were going to investigate the unit was found. They'd been ambushed. Not a single one of them had survived the ambush despite having put up a heroic resistance.
This resistance was evidenced by the spent bullet casings and the little to no ammunition left on the units' bodies. My dad, instead of going home with his brothers, took care of the arrangements for their bodies, their belongings and wrote a letter to each of their families.
He never, to my knowledge, never felt he didn't deserve to survive, never felt guilt or trouble with adjusting to his new life as a husband and father of three. He got no support or even shown any concern by colleagues, friends or family.
"Wat er gebeurde was gebeurd, en huilen of je eigen leven er kapot aan laten gaan veranderd daar niks aan. Het enige dat je kan doen om de dooien te eren is te zorgen dat de kans die je hebt gekregen niet te verkloten, en het beste te maken van dat leven dat jij wel mag leven en zij niet"
Those were his literal words about it. To prevent my interpretation from coloring the translation, I've chosen to use the online translator to put it into English.
"What happened had happened, and crying or destroying your own life doesn't change that. The only thing you can do to honor the thaws is to make sure that the opportunity you've been given isn't wasted, and make the best of that life that you can live and they can't."
(thaws is what the translator made of the word "dooien" which means the dead)
My experience I want to share in this context is much more recent and much less… heroic? When I was 30, in 2004, I had somehow shifted from one social circle, or group of friends, to another one. The main reason was that the old gang mostly had all more or less stopped going out and partying while me and one friend of that old gang didn't. I worked very hard, and long hours (averaging 70-80 hours a week) making a very comfortable salary. Being alone and living cheaply allowed me to work hard/play hard, as they say, so we simply made new friends partying each weekend.
That new group with which I spent my weekends was markedly different from the first group in that most of them lived in different cities and villages than me and my other buddy. Some even lived across the border in a different country. This wasn't a problem because I had a company car, and the company had provided me with a pass for fuel that cost me nothing.
So every weekend some of the group went out on Saturday, either to a club or to a large party, and afterward, on Sunday morning around 05:00, some of us went to pick up a buddy of mine who worked as a DJ in a club in Breda who was done working at around 06:00. We then would go to a club, often called an "after club" that opened at 07:00 in the morning and was open until 17:00 and partied there. When we were done, I usually brought four of our group home before going back home myself and crash until Monday morning at 05:30 when I had to get up to go to work. This became routine so much it was almost some sort of ritual.
On July 9th there was an occasion at work that merited a company party-ish thing. I forgot what that occasion was, and afterward, every employee was gifted a bottle of whiskey. The next day, I and a buddy of mine decided we needed to subject the Whiskey to a tasting, which ended up emptying the bottle within an hour or three.
Being drunk past tipsy without being useless completely when the time came to go pick up those of our group that normally rode with me to where ever we were going I called up the only other one in our group that had a license and a car but usually rode with us in my car and told her I was not in a state to drive that weekend. I told her I'd pay for the fuel and parking but she needed to drive us that weekend if we were to be going anywhere. I even told her we could take my car if she preferred. She didn't and readily agreed to pick us up and drive us that weekend.
Not being the one tasked with getting us where we were going and back that time felt something like having a shackle taken off or something, and I took the opportunity to get wasted that weekend.
Besides that, the weekend wasn't particularly extraordinary. We went to a party in Amsterdam (I think it was Sensation Black in the Amsterdam Arena)
This is footage of that night:
A better quality overview of the party:
Other than on most weekends my buddy Koen had taken the weekend off from DJ-ing so we didn't have to pick him up on Sunday morning, so we stayed till the end (around 08:00 or 09:00) before driving back to the south of the Netherlands and deciding to keep driving to Limburg, to go to the Limburg love parade as afterparty.
The last thing I can remember is reluctantly calling the weekend over and getting into the car in the back seat, waving at some Gabbers as we drove off. I still don't know what happened after that.
I woke up with a headache and a sore left foot, lying halfway in a ditch in the pitch dark. All I could see was small debris, which took a couple of seconds before recognizing were parts of the car.
After slowly getting up, the first responders, two police cars, pulled up on the road and the cops got out, shining their flashlights left right. I remember being annoyed by their bright lights flashing in my eyes.
Then I saw one of the…clumps of metal that were 20 meters away and the only reason I recognized it as the part of our car in which everybody sat was the oddly untouched Ruffneck logo that was on the right side back passenger door. I walked over, or stumbled really, and when I looked inside…
I sat down beside it in a daze not responding to the police or the medics, nor do I remember anything, before some time later, sitting in a waiting room alone the next day, waiting to be picked up from the police station by a colleague of mine.
I remember that we almost got into a fight because I wanted to go into the office and get to work, and he would let me tell me to go to bed and that he didn't want to see me at the office for at least a week.
He won, and I spent that week lying on the couch, going to 4 memorials and funerals and feeling nothing, thinking nothing, and saying nothing. I was aware of everything, saw everything, nodded, shook hands, and gave hugs at the times, but I just didn't have any thoughts and just couldn't find anything to say.
The next Monday I went to work and worked a full week clocking 60 hours or something. On Saturday we had our memorial (ours was…different, and probably not going to be appreciated by family, like mothers, grandmothers, and so on. That's why we had it that weekend for all the friends in the group).
It was at that memorial that I… how shall I call it…came out of what felt like one moment, in which I had been suspended while the rest of the world moved through normal time around me. It felt as I'd been frozen at the moment i looked inside the wreckage, and I snapped back to normal time and space at the memorial when they played Irene's favorite track "Therapia".
(The track Therapia is the 2nd one at 4m 32s)
I danced, I cried, I remembered. And I promised I would never stop being a Gabber, and party at least once a year "with them" to celebrate their lives, instead of mourning their deaths. I've gone on living my life after that, working hard and playing hard every weekend until 2008 when I met my ex-wife. My son was born in July 2009 and then I became a single Daddy in December 2010.
Since then I've stopped partying every weekend but I kept my promise to my friends and went to a Hardcore Party at least once a year and at most twice a year. At least I did so except for the past 2 years because of Covid. Next weekend It will be the first time in two years that I get to keep my promise, as well as celebrate my birthday, going to Masters Of Hardcore Magnum opus 2020.
I never felt guilt. I never felt I didn't deserve to live… at least not because of that.
One of my friends I knew better than she knew herself. I also knew the others pretty well. They wouldn't want my life to be affected by their deaths. I know they'd want me to have the best life I could have, and that they'd "Be with me " at every party dancing right there beside me all night.
It's something I've talked with Irene about and she specifically told me more than once. I distinctly remember word for word what she said to me:
"Je weet toch, ik ga altijd met jouw mee, als je naar een party gaat. Zelfs als ik dood ben en jij niet. Wij hakken zij aan zij en gaan door tot we de enigste zijn die overblijven. Jij en ik voor altijd man, gabbers voor altijd."
I've let the translator translate it to keep it accurate and not have my interpretation influence it:
"You know, I'll always go with you when you go to a party. Even if I'm dead and you're not. We chop side by side and continue until we are the only ones left. You and I forever man, gabbers forever."
So I believe I can say that when it comes to surviving, I have some insight and can provide insight on the topic as an experiential expert. People survive things that others don't survive all the time. Most of them don't experience the things your article writes about and live their lives without problems. Speaking as if it's normal for survivors to have nightmares, spontaneous crying, depression, to need professional help and therapy is wrong.
It's creating the notion that if you don't struggle with "survival guilt" you're an uncaring hardass, not normal somehow, or that "you're not dealing with it". Those are the exceptions and, I suspect, have underlying issues of which this is a symptom.
In this article, among the way too many others, I read that the acceptance and praise for "mental vulnerability" in today's society have gone completely off the rails. The revelation that someone is struggling with something mentally and is showing behavior and doing things that are detrimental to themselves is received as something of a joyous occasion and wonderful to be praised and referenced as an example.
People should have victim counseling after they experience a crime, calling someone ugly can lead to suicide, Bullying must be eradicated, people get scarred from passive aggression, there is something called passive-aggressive, overweight people should be protected from shaming, and soldiers should get psychiatric aftercare after experiencing combat...
"Toen wij terug kwamen uit Korea na drie jaar in een oorlog te hebben gevochten. Wij kregen wij ook nazorg. We kregen 25 gulden voor in de kroeg. Ik ken geen enkele veteraan die psychologische problemen heb gehad!"
which the translator translates to:
"When we came back from Korea after three years of fighting in a war. We also received aftercare. We got 25 guilders for in the pub. I don't know a single veteran who has had psychological problems!"
Of course, it is terrible for someone who's struggling with how to process surviving something where others didn't. But not everyone that survives something has psychological problems. Most people do not, and live on after they've mourned for those who died. Humans have done so for tens of thousands of years. Don't think there is something wrong with you if you don't need therapy or psychologists, or that you're not caring enough.
I want to thank @HappyBoy again for the original article.
Thanks for reading this.
Stay safe and stay happy.