February 2008

Letters To The Ethical Spectacle

Spectacle Letters Column Guidelines. If you write to me about something you read in the Spectacle, I will assume the letter is for publication. If it is not, please tell me, and I will respect that. If you want the letter published, but without your name attached, I will do so. I will not include your email address unless you ask me to. This is in response to many of you who have expressed concern that spammers are finding your email address here. Flames are an exception. They will be published in full, with name and email address. I have actually had people follow up on a published flame by complaining that they thought they were insulting my ancestry privately. Nope, sorry. The following is this month's example.

I just read your State of Nature article,

It's more than obvious you have no experience on Everest, with that being said who are you to judge morality or ethics?

I made my summit push last year from the north and fell victim to HACE 100M from the summit, passing dead bodies all the way up and down.

Do you know what altitude does to the mind? I'm a very intelligent Systems Engineer and had the capacity of my 6 year old daughter after I hit the death zone.

Sure it would be great if it were possible to rescue people from the roof of the world but you have to understand one thing.....At What Cost??? The cost of every climber in the expedition losing their life to save one person who is potentially knocking on death's door. Several things were made very clear to me when I decided to undertake this adventure, one being YOU HAVE TO BE ABLE TO WALK, the difference between living and dying on the mountain pivots on your being mobile.

I witnessed 5 sherpas attempting to assist an injured climber and after almost an hour they moved maybe 5 steps. Sherpa's, the indigenous people of the area, who are like Rock Stars up there, could not move a 125 kilo man more than 5 steps.

I guess my point is that before you open your mouth to judge the actions of others you better well know what you are talking about. Sure people shouldn't be up there, but we are, striving to reach goals before thought of as unattainable. It's a choice to take on a mountain and a risk that some are willing to die for. It must be really easy to judge the actions of others from your nice warm office sitting in your comfortable chair. For myself, I think of you as an armchair idiot who talks a lot but says nothing, this year should I pass a climber in distress, if I don't have the means to help the person, they are going to die, and the same goes for me, I cannot expect people to attempt to save me should I become distressed, that would be just as selfish, asking others to die with me.

Guess you need a backbone and a clue

Good Day Sir

Jason Sorrell jsorrell@mgmmirage.com

I love getting mail from people who are completely unconscious that they come off as arrogant assholes. People who think they are refuting me but are actually proving my point.

For your edification, Jason, you might want to check out this CDC report describing a very common occurrence in sewer work, mining and other industries where noxious gases can accumulate and overcome workers. The reflex of co-workers seems to be to try to rescue their fellows, despite the terrible risks involved, and even though they are not legally required or even paid to do so:

[T]wo sewer workers died in an attempt to rescue a third sewer worker, who had been overcome by sewer gas at the bottom of an underground pumping station.

I guess there's more morality in a sewer than there is on top of a mountain.

Hello Mr. Wallace,

I came across a review you wrote of Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air". I read "Into Thin Air" some time ago and I am currently reading "Climb" by Anatoli Boukreev and Weston DeWalt. I have been searching out more information on the event that happened on Everest and in particular Yasuka Namba. It struck me as it appears it did you what an extreme tragedy and failure it was that Namba and Weathers were not offered more help. I found your article and just wanted to comend you on some thoughtful words you wrote. They struck home with me. One never knows how one will react in an extreme situation until we are in the middle of it. The people on the mountain that day were in an extreme situation. Some rose to the challenge the best they could and others did not. To not assist and atleast try to comfort Namba and Weathers once they were found alive I find very disturbing. A failure at what in part it means to be a human being. What you wrote at the end of your article seems so true. Why put yourself in a position where you might not do your best and sacrifice for your fellow man. Thanks for writing the article.



Dear Jonathan:

Re Thomas Vincent on depleted uranium:

Thomas Vincent writes 'Military ethics aside, what is the efficacy of a weapon that exposes your own soldiers, to the same "wound and destruction" it visits on the enemy? From a purely practical standpoint it makes no sense.'

Sadly, this is not true; it makes perfect sense. Consider the last part of his quotation from General Patton: /"There is only one tactical principle which is not subject to change. It is to use the means at hand to inflict the maximum amount of wound, death, and destruction on the enemy in the minimum amount of time." /Thomas Vincent has only considered the damage, not the time frame. Depleted Uranium is totally safe for one's own troops in the relevant time frame - they remain effective. Indeed, even if it were not so - as was the case of troops advancing into areas softened up by gas attacks during the First World War, and even more so for troops advancing behind a creeping barrage, some of whom were always killed - it might still make sense in net terms.

Yours sincerely,


Dear Jonathan:

Re: On Lying,

Some times one finds, in the words of others, his or her own true feelings.

Thanks for expressing mine, in a way I could probably never express them.


Marisol Rodriguez Taboada

Great job on the "Lying" article. I cannot tolerate being lied to either. Like you said, when you don't know the whole truth, your decision making is obscured. The liar also makes you look like a fool (and you don't even know it). It stinks!!!


hey just wanted to say hello

i do prison ministry and came across your thought on Karla Faye Tucker and tend to agree with your thoughts and comments my father was murdered and needless to say nothing was carried out on the man that did the crime and all these years later i am glad they did not execute this man he died of a heart attack two years ago 38 years after his crime on my father i have no hate in my heart for this man i hope he and my father will be friends in heaven oppose to my father killing him i don't know if you remember the mans statement about the murder in heaven hope you are doing well



Dear Mr. Wallace:

I just thoroughly enjoyed an article claiming to be authored by you... "Natural Rights Don't Exist".

Thanks for that,


Dear Mr. Wallace:

I used your Holocaust Alphabet in my classroom a few years ago and lost some of it, so I visited your site again today and oh my God, I LOVE IT!!!!! I didn't see half the stuff when I was on it the first time, or if I did, I didn't remember it. I just read your first essay--incredibly well-written. To the point. Had me agreeing with every part of it. It put so much into perspective for me.

Who ARE you????? :) I'll have to check out your bio next. May I use your essay in my classroom as an example of good writing? Or would this be breaking copyright laws? Or should I not even ask? (Maybe I'll just go with the last option....)

You totally made my day. Thanks! anne