Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Who are we to judge?

I wanted to bring up a point that was made repeatedly when I was discussing the idea of adventure with my friends over break. One individual repeatedly asserted her belief that since none of us were there, none of us could pass judgement. I asked about some of the main discussion points we've kept returning to in class, and she just kept saying she didn't think any of us ("us" meaning my friend group, not the participants of our class) could give any insight because none of us had been in a life or death on a mountain type situation. At the time, I found it kind of infuriating. But now I think it's a valuable question, especially as we read Tabor. Many of us (this time I do mean the class) seem to agree that Tabor did the best he could given the circumstances, and never claimed to know more than he did. But I know I personally am still inclined to question why he wrote the book and not someone closer to the expedition. But then I'm reminded that we are essentially doing exactly what Tabor did to write his book: we are gathering available information about expeditions and publishing our opinions on who was the better leader, who had purer motives, who made dumb choices, online for all the world to see. I know that that's cheapening things a lot, but still, what gives us the right? My apologies for asking a rhetorical question like that, but this has been kind of weighing on my mind and I'm curious to know how others feel. Do we have some kind of right because we're studying these books as outsiders? Could it be said that our opinions are equally if not more valuable than the adventurers on the expeditions, because we are investigating objectively?

1 comment:

  1. This post was a little bit of a bombshell to me because I hadn't given much attention to the idea that we're imitating Tabor and criticizing him, too. I think this is an excellent point, and it certainly makes our judgments about the outsider's morality / rights personal. I myself am inclined to think that publishing opinions / judgments / "true" stories for the world to see invites others' judgments. When movies and books come out, critics review them. Critical reviews are published. WE critically review THOSE. I think the whole point is to foster a nationwide or even worldwide discussion about all the things we've been grappling with in class. Putting one's personal adventure out in a book is a risk, but I think there's an intellectual curiosity that prompts us to write and read and discuss, because these mysteries are important somehow and deserve attention from many perspectives. That being said, discussion leaders often encourage participants to challenge ideas, and not people, and I think that extends to this situation. There's no point in bashing Don Sheldon or Washburn or Wilcox after the fact. They can't change anything now, but challenging the ideas and beliefs behind their controversial decisions on the mountain can inform future adventurers and help avoid further accidents.