The book

A blueprint for savagery

I'm afraid. Of us.

Those words first appeared in print exactly 60 years ago when William Golding published his most famous novel, Lord of the Flies.

It's easy to see how Golding got the inspiration for his tale of humanity red in tooth and claw: he had served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War and wrote Lord of the Flies while teaching boys at Bishop Wordsworth's School.

Accounts of survivor groups through history – from the siege of Numantia in 134BC to the Chilean miners trapped under the Atacama desert in 2010 – mirror what happened on Golding's imaginary tropical island. When Ralph tells Piggy he's afraid of us, reality shows he was right to be afraid. The destructive processes Golding described are astonishingly accurate.

When groups of people are clinging to life, the greatest threat may be not the harsh environment, starvation or dehydration, but the other survivors standing next to them on the deserted beach or the remote, snow-covered mountain.

Group fragmentation, leadership struggles, personal hatred, theft, abuse, frenzied violence, the discarding of empathy and compassion – these are all things that afflicted both Golding's schoolboys and many real survivor groups.

Source: The Independent