Too Much Thought

It’s rare that I actually get into a new TV show, particularly one that has a continuing story line week after week. I just don’t like the commitment of needing to see a show; however, last week, a friend of mine handed me the entire first season of Prison Break and said, “just watch it.” So, this past weekend (facing 16 hours in a car roundtrip), I brought along my computer and headphones and set off to give it a whirl.


Now I must say that, in addition to having a seriously good looking lead actor, the show is quite compelling. The thing that I like best about it is that it doesn’t pull it’s punches. It stays true to the brutality that exists in prison and it shows that people exist in shades of gray being neither entirely good nor bad, but generally falling somewhere in between.

There’s just one thing that doesn’t sit well with me. Actually, this one thing exists in all rescue type situations (whether the rescue is from prison or from natural disasters) and I’ve never really understood it.

Why does the death toll of the rescuers always exceed the lives that would have been lost had the rescue never been attempted?

For example, three climbers are stranded in an avalanche. Twelve search party volunteers set out in treacherous conditions to attempt the rescue against all odds. Six members of the search party end up losing their lives in the attempt while two members of the stranded climbers also fall victim to the elements. What I don’t understand is that, at the end of the day, six people died to save one. Now don’t get me wrong, if I’m that one person, I’d be damn grateful, but I just don’t understand the trade-off that’s involved.

At first I thought that there must be something about human nature that doesn’t allow us to just sit back and watch people die if there’s any chance that they can be saved. Whether it’s rescuing someone sitting on death row for a crime that he didn’t commit or digging climbers out of an avalanche, we are compelled to act even when the odds are against us. But there’s one thing that I don’t understand about this – why are we willing to save people who are so difficult to save while we ignore people in dire need of help on a daily basis? We walk by the homeless without a second glance and listen with bored ears to news stories about genocides in Africa, yet we are moved to tears by stories of stranded families and missing persons. I guess it all comes back to relatability. Most of us are not homeless and our families are not being slaughtered in Africa, but any one of us can become stranded or abducted.

Obviously, I’ve given this way too much thought and while I’m now compelled to watch the next three seasons of the show, I will always be thinking in the back of my mind, “at what cost is he being saved?”


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