Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cascades of Folly

I have, for a long time now been a volunteer rider for any local Sherrif's department Search and Rescue. I have many reasons for this. The main reason is that this is something I can do to help out. I have good, strong horses that are fiends of endurance (they're Arabs and a mustang). My mustang can cheerfully carry a great deal of things that will be needed instantly upon finding someone who has been lost. Water, lots of water, a full on medical kit, a radio, all the things you need to start making a lost person's chances of survival better. She also doesn't need to be ponied to a rider when we are on the search. She will always keep us in sight and maintain her connection with her herd. That's important when minutes are turning into hours and hours are turning into days.

I also have more than a little experience in surviving extreme situations and conditions. When some folks look out on the Sonoran Desert they see a wasteland and a hostile place. I see a playground and a grocery store. It's the same with the mountain forests where I live. It doesn't mean that I'm careless or reckless when I'm out in the wild, far from it. It means that I have knowledge and skills that will enhance my chances of survival, and these same skills translate easily into finding someone who doesn't possess those skills.

One of the concepts we talk about constantly is the "Cascading Folly" situation. Where one poor decision, one that usually would be innocuous all by itself leads to other decisions based upon that first little, tiny mistake. This often leads to a disasterous conclusion. When the environment is one that can be hostile to the unknowledgable, like the desert, the disaster often comes swiftly and without mercy. ****small desert tip**** if you're lost and thirsty in the Sonoran Desert don't go lopping the top off a barrel cactus expecting to find a water cooler. Much like drinking sea water the juice and pulp of the cactus will probably induce kidney failure as your body tries to filter out the impurities. You'll also probably cut yourself to shreds trying to get to something that has a good chance of harming you more than it will help. *****end tip ******

Over and over we find the bodies of people who make that one little mistake. They try to move when they should stay put, they seek shelter when they should stay in the open. In the case of moving "for help" (that's how they always put it) there are many things to be considered before doing that. The first consideration should always be "is there likely to be somebody trying to find me?" If that's the case, stay put. You'll be easier to find that way. I'm a pretty good tracker. I'm not one of these supernatural gifted types that can track a bumblebee over concrete in a hailstorm, but I'm a better bet on finding someone out there than most. I've hunted both animals and men, animals are harder. So let's start this cascade off by having somebody panic and leave their car which has broken down on a not very well traveled road. They will start to walk along the side of the road, usually in one direction or another. If they don't know for certain where the closest crossroad or inhabited place would be, the cascade of folly has just picked up a little momentum. Away from their disabled car they are a person by the side of the road walking where rational regular people don't do things like that. Getting away from the physical explanation of what the fuck they are doing there has just diminished their chances of having a random driver stop and pull over to help them. Catching on the way it works? (sure we are! good, because that's not what I cam here to talk about)

Iraq has been a perfect storm of Cascading Folly. Because it was wrong from the start it has had little, if any, chance of ever being anything but a horrendous disaster.

Take the current stuff people are saying about "the surge." One of the things that drives me nuts is when they talk about "The Iraqi Government." What they have there is not a goverment by any stretch of the imagination. Every thing they talk about where they expect the Iraqi government to "step up" or "take action" or "assume authority" is doomed. It's fucking doomed because There. Is. No. Such. Government. If Maliki were to walk the streets of Bagdhad he would be killed. Just like the Aztecs killed Monteczuma. Maliki would be safer walking the streets of Bedford-Stuy with bags of crack taped to his ass and his pockets overflowing with money. There. Is. No. Such. Thing. As. An. Iraqi. Government.

If the President uses "Iraqi Government" at any time when he's speaking, everything that proceeds from there is a further and deeper Cascade of Folly.

Thus endeth the lesson.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent analogy.

The desert and the sea sound like they have more in common than I realized.
Unfortunately I've witnessed the cascade too many times.
It is vital to 'know' before you go.
Most people don't.
They think of nature in terms of Disneyland.
It ain't.

6:27 PM  
Blogger said...

Interesting entry.

4:56 PM  
Blogger BadTux said...

I've made some mistakes in the desert, but I'm always careful to make sure they're not fatal ones. I know where the nearest water is and how to find it if it is not obvious. I use a GPS but also have a map and compass. The most important part is this: 1) carry enough water for a day and 2) never be more than half a day's walk from a known good water source. That way if something happens you always are able to get to water. There were times when I started hiking with a backpack with full gear and a day's worth of water on what I thought was to be a multi-day trip through interesting canyons and across intresting mesas, 4 hours later got to a source of water that is usually full of water and found it dry, and turned around and walked 4 hours back to my car. Pushing on further would have been folly. Perhaps even deadly folly.

Pushing on when it's not clear that it's safe to do so is death in the desert. Yet the big fool in the White House says, "push on" when we have arrived at the water hole called "Iraq" and found it dry and deadly. But in this case it is not his lying rear which will die from pushing on. It will be the young men who serve where he would not when he was young.

5:53 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

one of the biggest things about the sonoran desert that many people don't understand is how rapidly dehydration sets in. the extreme low humidity, even in the absence of heat will literally suck moisture right out of you. then, as fatigue and dehydration begin to take their toll thought processes are degraded. and shades, you're absolutely correct. the desert and the ocean are very close. in both places, even if you do everything right, it can go so very wrong so quickly.

11:10 PM  
Blogger Deborah Newell said...

MB, this is one of your finest posts. If not the finest.

Beautifully written, captivating, logically immaculate, and suffused with truth.

10:09 AM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

thank you very much D. it means a great deal to receive praise from a writer of your calibre.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first thing I was taught in Hawaii was
Never turn your back on the ocean.

The first thing I was ever taught was
Never put sugar in tomato sauce.

I'd say both these lessons have served
me well thru the years.

12:14 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

yes, those who sugar their marinaras should be shot. no, wait, flogged first, then shot.

4:16 PM  

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