…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
I read, and liked Edmund Hillary‘s Nothing Venture, Nothing Win (Coronet Edition 1977). My achievements are somewhat (forty times approx.) less than his – his Mount Everest, or Samarmatha or Quomalangma (depending on the inclination of your political correctness) 8,848 m; mine a sandstone hillock of about 200 m. Still, I made it with no ropes, no Sherpas and no snow; but sand in my eyes and everywhere, which, believe me, is most uncomfortable, especially everywhere. For, as Sir Edmund said: “Even the mediocre can have adventures and even the fearful can achieve.” I qualify on both grounds. I respect mountaineering – from a safe distance.
Since Sir Hilary, everybody (over 3,000 people) and her dog got to the summit of the earth’s highest hillock, sorry, mountain. Without trying in any way to diminish the personal achievement of those intrepid mountaineers, (over 200 died so far), I sometimes get impression that it is not the fun it used to be. It is a rich man’s world summit – clients pay expedition organisers about $90,000 a time, out of which $10,000 goes to Nepali government. Ethnic Sherpas earn $2000 to $8000 a season. Though only about 1% (280,000) of the population of Nepal, they provide the majority of porters and guides.
In April this year a piece of ice broke off and buried sixteen Sherpas – highest death toll from a single mishap there so far. The Nepali government reacted as governments do – by increasing the compulsory insurance by 50%. Thirty-two expeditions were planed for this season, and most were abandoned. The job is risky, but paying well in a region lacking everything but vistas.
Now we get the usual, predictable racist outcry from the Left: Rich whites exploiting (and killing) poor Asians! Ban it all! There are two, at least, arguments to be considered. Firstly, the human yen for adventure, paid or not paid, which the Mafia of the politically correct tries to eliminate is here to stay. Many people, Sherpas included, are too smart to take up the bungee jumping or twitting and prefer to make good and exciting living in physically dangerous, adrenaline enhancing occupations.
Secondly, people have different skills and abilities, something which equality-mongers do not wish to admit. One thinks of the fabricated saying, attributed by the Left to Marie Antoinette, “let them eat the cake”, while waiting for the socially aware experts to say “let’s retrain those poor people as computer programmers, social workers, securities traders, imaginary trauma counsellors…”