Thursday, December 20, 2012

The rise of predatory climbing groups

The rise of predatory climbing groups


What is a predatory climbing group?


    I have been climbing since 1971. Group sizes were small, as there was almost no “climbing scene”. Usually, a group was one to four persons with one or zero pets. There was no such thing as a waiting line for a route. The 'rack' was machine nuts on string, crude nuts, clanking hexs, and a few pins. The rope was not stretchy, and it was belayed around the waist with leather gloves. The shoes were not sticky, and worked no better than tight tennis shoes. Leading was not much safer than soloing, so climbing was a matter of convincing your most suicidal friend to bring the rope up to an anchor.

    Climbers were more like hikers, with small incomes, and old cars. There was no internet, guidebooks, or climbing gyms. In short, no one would understand or care about what climbs you did. That has changed. Climbing is now dominated by office workers with higher incomes and very little time. Climber's habits are formed indoors, or at outdoor venues that are crowded and unpleasant. In this modern pressure cooker, it is advantageous to be aggressive, loud and numerous at the cliff. Dangerous pets also help to 'lock down' a given crag. The same is true at the camping area.

    Thus, the activity has 'evolved'. Good sportsmanship and consideration may be good for ones soul, but a large predatory group gets the finest campsite and the best routes. In the age of climbing blogs and sponsorships, a little 'cheating' is rewarded. There are no impartial judges to decide if a hard route has really been done in good style. So, a gang-like group structure helps it's members to get notoriety and free stuff. It is not so cool to brag about yourself, but it is not uncommon to hear people taking turns bragging about each other around the camp fire.

What can to done to reverse this sad trend?


    There must be a way to reward individuals or groups that are considerate and use great sportsmanship. And, the control should ideally come from within the climbing community. I have decided to attempt a film to address these issues. While British climbing flicks celebrate sportsmanship, bravery, and quiet love of the outdoors, the American variety seem to celebrate the opposite qualities. Watchers learn to have tantrums, yell loudly with each move, and form larger, more aggressive groups. Only the 'best' climbers are showcased, easily doing the very hardest routes. My offering will showcase folks in small, non aggressive groups 'recreating' their bodies and personalities in peaceful settings.

    The success of last year's short film 'A  desert life ' [vimeo.com] gives me hope. It was shot by Austin Sidiak, with me [Alf Randell] as the subject. The eight minute documentary shows a dirty and somewhat pathetic hermit, who camps and climbs in a party of one. I believe that my stoic nature and love of the desert comes through. People watched it in great numbers on line, and many outdoor sites linked to it. A portion of it was shown on national TV.

    The members of predatory groups can be influenced. Even though they were educated in a factory-like system, and live in swarming cities, they will learn to take their exercise in smaller and less aggressive groups. They will begin to value sportsmanship and quiet strength. Climbers will leave their irritating pets at home, tell the truth about their accomplishments, and loose interest in products and sponsored big-names.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

the falacy of insurance

Insurance seems like a good thing under a shallow inspection. One makes small payments over time, to receive a potentially large payment in time of need. Self insuring is close to ideal. The self insured company or individual puts money aside in case they have a car wreck, health problem, or fire. There is freedom to use this single fund for any emergency, and coverage does not cease with a missed payment. Of course, one does have to put the money aside.

Commercial insurance falls short of idealized self insurance in several ways. The most obvious shortfall is the overhead. Salaries for insurance workers and company profits must come right out of the emergency fund. In the big picture, the insured support a vast community of parasitic workers who do not fix cars or staff hospitals or rebuild houses. Some of these are paid to fight insurance fraud, which does not exist among the self insured. Others are paid to reduce or deny valid payments. The industry is arranged so the house always wins. So, buying insurance instead of putting money aside is like "investing" in lottery tickets or Las Vegas gambling.

Fraud is built into insurance. Insured car repairs and medical procedures cost far more than cash transactions. In many cases, the 'deductible' amount paid by the 'insured' is similar to the cash price for the service. I am not too sure how the 'coverage' helps. Insurance companies are very good at delaying and reducing payments to providers, forcing them to wildly inflate prices.

Behavior is affected on both sides of the service industry. The insured, having given up part of their responsibility, are less careful. They drive more recklessly, build homes that are likely to be destroyed, and take health risks. Once the damage is done, the insured rebuild their home in the same flood plane, get all kinds of expensive and incorrect medical procedures, and make other foolish choices that they would not make 'with their own money. Insurance fraud is more accepted in our culture than child molestation or murder, so the less scrupulous burn down their own house, give away items that are reported stolen, or cause traffic accidents to defraud insurance companies. This erosion of integrity and responsibility wastes money and weakens us as people.

Insurance companies limit the behaviors of individuals and companies. These limits are rarely good. Absurd medical procedures are done, activities and business ventures are forbidden, and small business is stopped or impeded. In the case of mandatory insurance, statisticians are given the effective ability to pass laws. These defacto laws are meant to maximize profit, and often degrade our lives. When a type of insurance is ruled as mandatory, a vast edifice of un-needed overhead and fraud is built. Freedom and choice are further limited, and more of our wealth is traded for a [partly] false sense of security.

As dwindling resources meet population increase, we arrive at the season of re-evaluation. Inefficient structures, including wasteful governments and predatory corporations can be replaced with more efficient entities. Gambling with ones health, safety and life via commercial insurance are likely to be revealed as wasteful and senseless. It is amazing that many different types of insurance are not already classed as deceitful financial products. It is as if we 'Modern' home Sapiens despise doing real work. We prefer to press buttons and fatten like food animals in sterile 'offices', while selling each other worthless documents that promise 'security' and 'safety'.

Real safety is found by accepting risk and responsibility. Rather than paying out almost all of ones income to banking shysters with their loans, insurances and false promises, the responsible person might live entirely within their means, and put aside a reasonable fund for emergencies. All this must be pretty amusing to the folks who know me. What could a destitute hermit know about economics or responsibility? Well, sometimes a system can be studied more objectively from the outside.

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About Me

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I am a fine art photographer and filmmaker. Lately, I have been doing panoramic images of the Canyonlands area, and printing them using archival materials. These large images are placed in work cubicles and homes, and can sometimes briefly transport the viewer to a contemplative location.