Wednesday, August 9, 2017

"What Does The Quote "Every snowflake pleads not guilty in an avalanche" Mean?"

"What Does The Quote 
"Every snowflake pleads not guilty in an avalanche" Mean?"
by Tom Robinson

"No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible." 
- Stanislaw Jerzy Lec

"I have never actually heard this quote but I think it's brilliant and can easily infer the intended meaning. When a problem is the result of many people individually doing something only slightly wrong it is easy for each individual person to see themselves as having no part in it.

For example, everyone is against slavery. We all know that the conditions in the sweatshops that make so much of the clothing in stores are deplorable, and many westerners are aware that some of the clothing we wear may have been made by people who are effectively enslaved.

But we tend to be okay with it at the same time. After all, we don’t run sweatshops, we only buy some of the clothing that comes out of them. Even if you stop purchasing clothing made unethically, other people will continue to buy it and nothing will change. We are just going along with a system that exists independent of ourselves for our own benefit.

The same logic goes for electronics. Even if we are aware (most aren’t) that the tantalum in the transistors in a device was taken from a system that promotes violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, all we did was buy the thing. We didn't pay any rebels. We didn't force anyone to mine coltan for a few cents a day.

When I was in kindergarten, I was in a play called “Nobody Stole the Pie.” The premise was that the people of a town made a huge pie. Without telling each other, everyone in town takes a little piece. After all, the pie is so big no one would miss one piece. When the time comes to cut and serve the pie, lo and behold, it's gone and everyone tries to figure out who stole it. But even though nobody stole the pie, it has disappeared just the same. Oddly, I feel that my kindergarten play encapsulates this quote quite effectively.

Each snowflake is only a piece of the avalanche and cannot be held responsible for the destruction it causes. One snowflake can't tear down a tree or bury a skier, but a bunch of them can. This quote calls upon each piece of the behemoth to recognize that the part it plays, though minor, is still what leads to the result."

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