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Opinion | Farah Stockman

Acceptable risk

When is a culture crossing the line from reasonable danger to dangerous reasoning?

Every year in the Swiss Alps, some ill-fated skier careens off a cliff and falls to his death. Scores more perish in avalanches or in unexpected crevices in the glacial ice. But that doesn’t stop the people of the Alpine region from skiing and climbing. To the contrary. Continuing to scale the dangerous slopes is precisely what makes them who they are.

By the same token, in Spain, more than 500 professional bullfighters have been gored to death over the last four centuries. Yet matadors keep getting back into the ring. And who knows how many teenage boys from the Maasai tribe in East Africa have died trying to kill a lion with a spear? They did it because it’s dangerous. Because that’s what it took in their culture to be considered a man.

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