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Saturday, November 22, 2014


Local climbers roped together - walking across the Eliot glacier
In Neal Stephenson's novel Anathem there is an episode where our hero journeys across the arctic. He makes it most of the way, but a few miles from his destination he and three of his fellow travelers are marooned by the transport company. The situation is not good, they are in the arctic, they are walking on ice and snow, but it is not desperate. They only have a few miles to go to reach civilization and they should be able to walk the rest of the way. Two of the guys are brothers and appear to be ineffectual. The fourth is a veteran traveler of these frozen wastes and agrees to lead their party to safety.
     The ground is treacherous, there are deep crevasses that have been covered over by a thin layer of snow, much like a glacier, so the leader probes the snow with a thin pole every step of the way. They tie themselves together with a long length of rope so that if one person falls in a hole the others will be able to pull him out.
    If it slow going, but they trudge on and they can see that they are making progress. The veteran traveler is leading the way, the two dummkoffs are in the middle and our hero is bringing up the rear. The two in the middle are not following the leader very well. Eventually disaster strikes and our hero finds himself lodged in a crevasse. He is not very far down and the leader, who is inexplicably still standing up top, helps him out.
    The other two are very much further down in the hole. One can be seen and they manage to pull him out, but the other is lost. The one they have rescued is injured so they rig a sledge and skid him the rest of the way to town. All's well, more or less.

   Sometime later our hero is wandering around town, getting his bearings, looking around when he is set upon by a mob. Seems the guy they rescued is angry that his rescuers abandoned his brother. Our hero only escapes thanks to the intervention of a group highly trained fighters (Hai! Karate! Ju-Jitsu! Hai!).

When I first read this passage I was astounded by the logic of the injured party. After due consideration it has become apparent that it is no different than the logic, if you can call it that, used by a great many people on this planet.
    While many people use poor logic, not all of them decide to use their bizarre conclusions to justify their violent attacks on other people. That's what separates the political infighting in this country (the USA) from most of the rest of the world.

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