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flutherother's avatar

Why are the young more willing to sacrifice their lives than the old?

Asked by flutherother (21861 points ) August 7th, 2012

Young people have everything to live for so why are they more prepared to die than older people. (The question was inspired by a young Syrian who is fighting with the rebels and who said he was prepared to die for his cause. His parents believe he is studying at University.)

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19 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Because young people have a built-in sense of invincibility. They don’t really believe that they will die.

bkcunningham's avatar

I’ve read studies that suggest their frontal lobes/prefontal cortex aren’t completely formed yet and they aren’t capable of fully thinking through consequences of actions. They haven’t experienced death or enough life consequences and believe they are invincible. God bless them.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I always thought I was bulletproof when I was young. But how about that 64 year old Sikh that took on the gunman with a butter knife?

Earthgirl's avatar

Poor judgement, lack of experience and misplaced or futile idealism

creative1's avatar

@marinelife hit the nail on the head…. The older have seen death some more than others but they know we will all die especially one day and earlier if we put ourselves in harms way

Earthgirl's avatar

But when someone says that they’re willing to die for a cause its probably because they believe in an afterlife. Its not because they think they’re invincible.

Earthgirl's avatar

It’s not exactly a new sentiment. Many throughout history young and old alike have been willing to make the ultimate sacrifice. I think it’s harder for young people to envision actual death or perhaps they don’t realize yet how truly precious life is. At any rate here’s a few slogans from the greatest hits of all time

“Live Free or Die”
The phrase comes from a toast written by General John Stark on July 31, 1809. Poor health forced Stark, New Hampshire’s most famous soldier of the American Revolutionary War, to decline an invitation to an anniversary reunion of the Battle of Bennington. Instead, he sent his toast by letter:
Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.

A possible source of such mottoes is Patrick Henry’s famed March 23, 1775 speech to the House of Burgesses (the legislative body of the Virginia colony), which contained the following phrase: Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!
A medal struck at Matthew Boulton’s Soho Mint, as tokens of exchange for the Paris firm of Monneron Freres, 1791–92, has on its obverse the motto Vivre libres ou mourir (Live free or die in French). A mention of “vivre libre ou mourir” occurs in 1754 Memoires by Chalopin.
During the Siege of Barcelona (25 August 1713 – 11 September 1714) the Barcelona defenders and the Maulets used black flags with the motto “Live free or die”, in Catalan “Viurem lliures o morirem”. Now it is used as a symbol of Catalan independentism
[edit]National mottos
”Ελευθερια η Θανατος” (Eleutheria i thanatos – “Freedom or Death”) is the national motto of Greece and comes from the motto of the Greek War of Independence (1821–1830).
”Слобода или Смрт” – “Svoboda ili smrt” – “Liberty Or Death” is the national motto of the Republic of Macedonia and is derived from the Ilinden–Preobrazhenie Uprising.
“Libertad o Muerte” – “Liberty or Death” is the national motto of Uruguay.
“Independência, ou morte!” – “Independence or death”, was the national motto of the Brazilian Empire.
“Ya istiklal ya ölüm” – “Independence or death”, was the motto of the Turkish resistance during the Turkish National Movement and the Turkish Liberation War.
“Eala Frya Fresena” – “Rise up, Free Frisians”, spoken at the Upstalsboom in Aurich in the early first millennium. It is traditionally answered with “Lewwer duad üs Slaav”, or “Better dead than a slave.”
“Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité, ou la mort” – “Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood, or Death” was the early motto of the French Revolution. Later versions dropped “ou la mort”. The full motto is still displayed above the entrance of the Hotel de Ville in Troyes.
“Better to die than to be a coward” (कांथर हुनु भन्दा मर्नु राम्रो – Kaayar hunnu bhanda marnu ramro) (Nepali). This is a motto in Nepal and is the motto of the British Army regiment the Royal Gurkha Rifles, which coincidentally used to have its UK base in the county of Hampshire.

Pandora's avatar

I remember what it was like to be so idealist. Then reality hits you in the face hard. Also youth has a very impatient side. Young people think that change can come quickly if you really commit with heart, body and mind. Only they don’t realize that it will most likely impact themselves and those closes to them and it will most likely be an abrupt change. But tomorrow, the neighbor and friends will move on as if no sacrifice was made because they are still alive and must carry on. So no real change will happen. You can’t change the world if you kill yourself before you set out to do changes. The world simply says, one more idiot and 100 million to go.
The older you get the more you realize that hitting your head against a wall only scrabbles your brains.
Real change is long and a painful process. It begins with education and making people aware that their previous thoughts are old and useless.
A soft voice is easier to hear and understand than blowing people up. All you end up is with more hatred and more violence when you are hoping to teach tolerance.
Dalai Lama. A rebel in a sense but a peaceful man who understands tolerance is taught best through example and it can do changes in a larger scale.

Earthgirl's avatar

@Pandora alleluia! No religion intended.

Pandora's avatar

@Earthgirl I said it in a really soft voice. I hope some are willing to listen

woodcutter's avatar

After the age of 26 a person is considered too old to enlist in the US military. So maybe they are admitting after that point in life, a person starts to think and question more? It sure seems to make sense.

iphigeneia's avatar

@Pandora I really do think you’re right, education and the slow changing of attitudes is the only way to real, permanent change.

Given the context of this question, however, I believe there are situations where the only way change will happen is if people are willing to sacrifice their lives. Sometimes this idealism is misplaced, and either the revolution fails, or leads to a different regime that’s no better than the first. But (while trying to avoid “What If?” territory) there have been many, many times throughout history where the only alternative to generations of suffering and/or servitude has been to fight back. I can’t know exactly what’s been happening in Syria, but I don’t think it’s fair to characterise the rebels, who are both young and old, as blindly idealistic or thinking themselves bulletproof.

As for the question, I do think the previous answers carry some weight, but also older people are more likely to have dependants, be settled in a job, etc. I also suspect that “Dulce et decorum est pro _____ mori” is still a part of our culture. Not that it’s proclaimed as loudly as in the war years, but it exists in the way we honour (and rightfully so) those young people who have lost their lives trying to save others.

rooeytoo's avatar

42 virgins???

bkcunningham's avatar

@woodcutter, actually the maximum age to enlist, with no prior service, is Army – 35 (must ship to basic training prior to 35th birthday. The Army experimented with raising the age limit to age 42 for a brief period of time, but effective April 1st, 2011, the Army has reverted to the lower age limit.

Non-prior service applicants must be at least 17 to apply and in Basic Military Training before their 28th birthday.

Navy – 34

Marines – 28

Coast Guard – Age 27. Note: up to age 32 for those selected to attend A-school directly upon enlistment (this is mostly for prior service).

Pandora's avatar

@iphigeneia Being that our country was started by a revolution, I understand those. But if you are simply a small band of terrorist that go all around the world blowing this or that up, than that person is a fool. No one man or woman or even several bands of them can change a world mindset. Even if you get what you want, it won’t last because you only created hate. Leaders that have terrorized their nations have tried terror as a tactic. In the end they either had to flee or where killed because the hate remained and it will always be there for people like that .
Honestly. If people wanted real change. All that would be needed is for everyone to grow up respectful of each other. You don’t even have to love the other person. Just acknowledge that we owe our best behavior to each other. What a world that would be. :) No need for any sacrifices.

iphigeneia's avatar

@Pandora “All that would be needed is for everyone to grow up respectful of each other.”

You make it sound so easy :)

Pandora's avatar

I was taught that anything really worthwhile doing will be a long and difficult road, but worth the trip

woodcutter's avatar

@bkcunningham 35 huh? They changed it from when I was in. But then at that time there were no wars. That maybe had something to do with casting a bigger net.

bkcunningham's avatar

I’m sure that casting a bigger net is the reason, @woodcutter. I wouldn’t have known about the change except that I was having a discussion with someone about their nephew who wanted to enlist. We looked it up to see if he was too old. Keep up the good posts friend.

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