Survivalism and the Battle of the Alamo

by Ben Best

"Like the troops I commanded, I was a combat soldier and barely on speaking terms with global strategy; I went where I was ordered to go and fought as best I could when I got there."

        -- Major General Ernest Harmon

The Alamo is a fort in San Antonio, Texas where a small band of Americans were killed by a large Mexican army in the middle of the 19th Century. Near the front entrance to the Alamo is mounted a purported statement by Moses Rose as reported by William Zuber in 1873. The statement describes events in the Alamo on 3-March-1836 when commander William Travis received a message that no reinforcements would be sent. Travis is reported to have gathered together the Alamo's 190 men and informed them that they had little chance of survival against the thousands of Mexicans surrounding the Alamo. He said they had 3 alternatives: to surrender and be executed, to attempt to flee & likely be cut-down by Mexican calvary, or to stand & fight with the hope of killing as many Mexicans as possible for the defense of Texas before being slain. Travis then reputedly drew a line in the sand with his sword and invited those willing to fight to the death to cross the line. All crossed save one: Louis Moses Rose, a Jewish veteran of Napolean's retreat from Moscow. Rose reputedly received kind words from Travis before slipping over the wall. Rose claims to have made his way across the prairie without seeing anyone.

I was impressed with Rose as an individualist and as a survivor. Being Jewish and a foreigner may have played in Rose's favor, since the others may have felt he was not "one of their kind" and hence could not be regarded as a traitor. I had thoughts of cryonicists being modern-age "Jews", strengthened in individual or tribal survival by alienation from the mores of the masses.

What did the 189 defenders die for? Probably each defender accounted for the death of 2 Mexicans. The defense was more symbolic than strategic -- Sam Houston had not wanted valuable soldiers wasted on the indefensible fort. It appears that the soldiers were more interested in a proud, heroic death of defiance.

My experience with cryonics has been eye-opening to me insofar as it has made me aware of how cheaply the vast majority of non-cryonicists seem to value their own lives. It is not much tribute that someone "gave his life for his country" when, in fact, he placed little value on his own life. There are many people who gladly risk their lives for nothing more than the thrill of participation in a dangerous sport. Many others have gone to war because their possible death seemed a small price to pay in exchange for the possibility of becoming a hero by killing lots of enemy soldiers. The words of a professional soldier, like those of Ernest Harmon above, may inspire others, but to me they mean nothing so much as the submersion of concern for life&death issues to blind obedience to authority. In this sense, Harmon was no better than those he fought and killed.