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Friday, August 13, 2004


One hundred posts. And I thought I would have nothing to write about tonight. So far, the week has been the usual: chasing down computer problems at work and at home, 80 km of riding on Tuesday just for fun (did okay in the race, merely finishing with the pack), and The Lovely One got a new job (it's sort of meta: she's teaching people how to be ESL teachers).

Now, one funny link. I'll let you decide if that means it's humorous or strange: A Russian expedition to the Tunguska meteorite site in Siberia claims it found an extra-terrestrial device that was responsible for the 1908 explosion. I'm not quite convinced.

Now, one un-funny link. Psychiatrists fear hero copycats.

First, let me be charitable here: the psychologist and psychiatrist quoted in that article seem most concerned that teenagers, who are not known (and pardon the generalization) for the best judgment out there, will rashly copy these examples.

But even so. If teens learn that stopping the life-threatening peril of innocents is a good thing, I'm okay with the risks of that.

I have a suspicion that the reporter (one Amy Carmichael) knew the (excitingly counterfactual) angle she was going for when she wrote this piece, and either teased the relevant quotes out of relatively innocent sources, or had the names of a few tame experts who could be relied on to supply the missing quotes with minimal prompting.

But now to the specific critiques. Here's the advice of forensic psychiatrist Kulwant Riar:
Riar urged authorities to caution people to stand back and instead make a phone call right away.
Hm. One can never know for sure, but the people rescued from the burning building? The woman in Port Moody? I'm thinking that whatever help can come from the other end of a phone call would have arrived a little too late.

Never mind the boilerplate bloviation about how people should be more involved, care about their neighbours, and so forth. Let's just think about the accidental lesson suggested by this article: there is no cause worth risking your life for.

I think there is. I think that it is the better part of discretion to put yourself out for people in grave danger. There is a risk you'll get killed. But being willing to take that risk for another is a decent thing to do.

In the long run, we are all dead. But in the long run, society also benefits from being composed of people willing to risk their lives to come to the aid of strangers in need. In the long run, such a society ends up being one in which there is less cause for strangers to risk their lives for people in need.

EDIT: several changes made mostly so that the article actually made sense. D'oh.

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