The true story of these shipwrecked boys shows the grim vision of 'Lord of the Flies' is just fiction

Are people in general innately good or innately bad? Does humanity skew toward self-service and savagery or compassion and cooperation?

People have explored these questions in various ways over the centuries, and while we have plenty of examples of humans acting on both ends of the spectrum, there is still debate to be had about how we humans average out. Are we more likely to tilt toward helping or hurting?


An article in The Guardian by Australian writer Rutger Bregman offers a rare insight into an accidental experiment that addresses this question. The article tells the largely-overlooked-but-amazingly-true story of six teenage boys from Tonga who were stranded alone on a deserted island in the South Pacific for more than a year. Rather than devolve into murderous animals, a la Lord of the Flies, the 13-to-16-year-olds pledged not to quarrel—and ultimately built a cooperative, supportive life together.

His full article is definitely worth reading, but Bregman shared the highlights along with some extra details and photos in a long Twitter thread over the weekend. It's hard to get enough of this extraordinary story, so the thread is a welcome treat after reading the boys' story.



















The title of Bregman's upcoming book, Humankind: A Hopeful History really sums up the takeaway from this story. Humans as a whole tend toward kindness. For sure human history is full of dark chapters and cruel atrocities, but it's more full of hope and collective progress. We tend to focus on the wars and conquests and genocides when we talk about history, but the building of civilizations, the collaborations that have led to discovery and innovation, and the everyday acts of compassion and altruism that we see all around us are arguably our default nature.

Certain conditions or influences may pull certain people away from that default, but as this story shows, people can act with cooperation and mutual support even under the most difficult of circumstances. If you're struggling to feel hopeful for humanity right now, keep this story in mind. We can always find examples of people acting selfishly, but that doesn't mean it's the norm.







The boys, ages 13 to 16, hated their boarding school in Tonga so they stole a boat and set out to sea. They took food and water, but no compass—a choice that makes their story of survival all the more fascinating. They got caught in a storm, ended up lost at sea for eight days, then washed ashore a rocky, uninhabited island.

The first thing the boys did when they realized they were stranded was they made a pact not to fight. For 15 months, they figured out how to find food, how to collect rainwater, how to stay healthy and fit—even how to set a broken bone when one of the boys broke a leg. After they managed to start a fire, they took turns tending it to ensure it never went out.

Search parties gave up looking for the boys, and funerals were held because they were presumed dead. The world moved on while the boys lived an impossibly difficult existence on an inhospitable island, never knowing if or when they'd ever get to leave.

But one day, an Australian sea captain just happened to have taken a detour from his route when a naked boy jumping from a cliff into the water caught his eye. Then he saw several others follow, screaming as they swam toward his boat. They were rescued after more than a year of living alone.

Bergman naturally contrasts these boys' experiences—a life they built that was marked by cooperation, mutual support, and collective problem-solving—with the frequently-assigned lit class novel Lord of the Flies by William Golding. In that story, a group of boys get stranded on a desert island and basically devolve into murderous animals vying for power. The message from the novel was that, left untrained and unattended, the "darkness of man's heart" would push children to savagery.


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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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