Who would have thought that the class struggle would reach Mt. Everest? My wife and I got into watching documentaries about climbing Mt. Everest. Every video shows the brave, adventurous climbers (almost all from the US, Europe and Australia) struggling heroically to reach the world’s highest mountain peak. They go through organized expedition companies.
$5,000 for the world’s most dangerous job
Along with them go some 30 Sherpas per expedition team. They cheerfully make these
climbers tea and breakfast in the morning, dinner in the evening, and pack the tents and all the supplies to the camps along the way up the mountain. They get paid a maximum of $5,000 for what is most certainly one of the world’s most dangerous jobs.
Several of the documentaries we watched contain footage of Russel Brice owner and operator of Himalayan Experience, Ltd. He charges his clients something like $100,000 a piece. If a sherpa is killed, their family gets a few hundred from the Nepalese government (not enough to even cover funeral costs) and zero from the likes of Brice, who in many of the videos expresses oh-so-much concern for “his” Sherpas, but pays as little as he can get away with.
All went on swimmingly until the climbing season of 2013, when one of the climbers called a Sherpa a “Motherf____r” and was attacked by the Sherpa. We see the scene (not a reenactment, the real scene) in the video “Sherpa.” There is a near riot, but Brice manages to calm things down.
Then came the 2014 climbing season. Carrying packs up the Ice Fall, disaster struck. A 14,000 ton block of ice came tumbling down, killing 16 sherpas. (This section of the climb has become increasingly dangerous due to global warming.) Then the class struggle broke out in the open.
The Sherpas hold a mass meeting, shouting and voicing their anger. Brice (and his fellow capitalist mountaineering company owners, presumably) call in the government, who send emissaries to try to get the Sherpas back to work. But they aren’t convinced. They are determined to walk off the job… strike for the entire 2014 climbing season.
Brice complains about how “irrational” they are, and at one point he is seen talking with his clients, claiming that “his” Sherpas want to stay and climb, but that they’ve been threatened by others “hotheads”.
Brice talks with his clients, complaining that there are just four or five agitators among all the Sherpas (for all the different companies). One of the clients suggests that he find out who they are so they can be run off the mountain, but Brice says it’s not so easy. Evidently
the Sherpas are sticking together.
Brice sits there trying to get the Sherpas to talk. They sit there, expressionless while he comments that normally you guys are so cheerful. “I want to hear you,” Brice says. “If any of you has anything to say, I’m listening. Say it.” I’m thinking: “He wants to see who leaders are so he can fire them.” None of the Sherpas says a word. He says he knows that they want to climb but they’ve been threatened. Silence.
One of the American climbers complains that it’s incredible, he’s being prevented from climbing by a few “terrorists”. Yes, that’s the term he uses!
Anyway, this is an absolutely classic and real-life exposition of all the tricks that a union busting boss tries to play as well as the arrogance and racism of these privileged climbers. Well worth seeing. We got it from our public library, but I imagine it’s on Netflix. Simply called “Sherpa“, it’s definitely worth seeing.