Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Sign of the Times: Everest Climbers Pass by Dying Man to Reach Summit

Dennis Prager frequently relates one way in which he detected a dangerous decline in the value that our society puts on human life. In speeches to colleges, he would ask the audience to indicate by a show of hands, "If your pet dog and a stranger were drowning, and you only could rescue one of them, whom would you rescue?" The overwhelming majority signalled that they would choose their pet over a human stranger. Dennis argued that this outcome indicated a disturbing decline in morality in modern society.

This news story is another indication, and it is not a hypothetical case. Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two men to climb Mount Everest, was shocked when he heard that David Sharp, a climber from Guisborough, England, was left to die last week on his descent from the summit of the world's highest mountain, when he ran out of oxygen. It appears that some 40 other climbers, on their way to the Everest summit, saw him helpless and dying, and passed him by, refusing to abandon their chance to reach the highest place on earth merely to save the life of a fellow human being.

This case is reminiscent of, but perhaps even more shocking than another incident frequently cited by Dennis Prager, the murder of Kitty Genovese on a Queens, New York street in the early morning hours of March 13, 1964. The investigation of her murder revealed that some 34 people heard her screams and, in some cases, witnessed the attack from their windows, but did not intervene or call the police. She lay screaming, crying and bleeding on the street after the attacker broke off his initial attack, but still no one tried to render aid or call the police, until finally the assailant returned to complete her murder. The statement frequently made by the witnesses to investigators became a byword of the moral malaise that many believed America had entered: "We didn't want to get involved."

At least, one might argue, the witnesses of the Kitty Genovese murder realistically would have put themselves in harm's way by trying to rescue her (although that reasoning does not explain why no one called the police). Can the climbers who passed by the dying David Sharp say as much? Certainly, if several of the groups had abandoned their climb and combined oxygen cannisters, they might have succeeded at little physical risk in bringing Mr. Sharp down to a camp at a lower elevation.

Climbing Everest is no longer the feat achieved by Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. Though still demanding and dangerous, it has become more of a popular excursion, as demonstrated by the number of climbers on their way up to the summit at the time of Mr. Sharp's death. Not even a quest of fame and glory can be offered by those climbers as their reason for leaving Mr. Sharp to die. It was more like, "Well, helping him would have interrupted our trip."

One wonders whether the phenomena of wholesale abortion on demand and increasing public acceptance of euthanasia have contributed to a utilitarian view of human life, in which the value of saving a life can be outweighed by the inconvenience of the required effort.

"Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain," Hillary was quoted as saying in an interview with New Zealand Press Association. But Sir Edmund was raised and educated in an earlier era, when moral values were paramount.

"I think the whole attitude toward climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying. The people just want to get to the top," he told the newspaper.

Hillary later told New Zealand Press Association he would have abandoned his own pioneering climb in 1953 to save another life.

"It was wrong if there was a man suffering altitude problems and was huddled under a rock, just to lift your hat, say 'good morning' and pass on by," he said.

Ironically, the climbers who left David Sharp to die in order to reach the highest point on earth simultaneously reached the lowest depths of morality. Perhaps they would have acted differenly if the dying victim was not a stranger, but their pet dog.


Blogger Aladdinslad said...

oh well so would i....i would rescue my pet dog thor who is a german shepherd before i would rescue any stranger is the way i look at my dog he love me and is depends on me and trust me so i am supposes to let him just lay there and die so i can save some person who is nothing to i do not think so not for one second. 

Posted by MuhammedShahiri

Wednesday, May 24, 2006 5:35:00 PM  
Anonymous DL said...

This is but a reflection of the secularization of culture.Love for neighbor is to be laughed at. Personal wuest to make it to the top of the mountain is what it is about - me - I and no one else.

This is the good Samaritan Story with a non-Christian ending. We have stamped out Christian love from our culture at great expense -abortion - euthanasia -Petrie dish births - cloning -life is to be played with and dispensed when it becomes interference with other's pleasure.

The respose above about animals before humans reflect also upon the degradation of culture.

Thanks for a good, if disheartening post! 

Posted by DL

Thursday, May 25, 2006 4:15:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We must speak out these truths, leaving David Sharp without attempts to rescue him shows neglilence towards the fate of others. If you should start digging more into this topic it will be a shock to learn how blunt how these people are about their behaviour. While there seems no way for them to change, it makes a difference to bring it up so everyone can build their own opinion and realize the sad truth compared to some childhood navity about the high morale standards in the mountains.
There is one simple thought, if Sharp was with Himex (most of the 40 climbers passing the dying David Sharp where with Himex), they would have started attempts to rescue him up to the extent where noone would have attempted to summit. Once you do some research on Brice you will also find traces of doubtful behaviour.


Posted by Konrad

Thursday, December 21, 2006 3:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the "morality test" proposed above is terrible. Love for other species (or at least respect) is one of the highest marks of morality. People who do not care about other species generally care as little about their own. The universal trait of mass murderers is torturing animals (all tortured animals when they were children). The example does not even prove what it wants to prove: I bet the same people would actually risk their own lives to save the stranger if the pet was not there! On the other hand I agree that the loss of value of human life is pervasive in modern society as the article shows

Friday, August 22, 2008 3:04:00 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home