I cannot overstate what a terrible, terrible thing the Prisoner’s Dilemma is. It is Objective Reality run amok. It is Cthulhu’s maw gaping for our souls. It is an eternal hall of mirrors squeezing in on you, until the glass shatters and tears through your eyes, and into your soul.
We are all prisoners of this world, all of us locked into this psychopathic trust game with one another, and the only sane answer is – each and every time – to defect, to sell out your co-conspirator, and to hope to God that they’re just a robotic simulacrum that sold you out first.
Understanding the societal-level reasons behind the decline are important, both as an intellectual exercise, and so that we can maintain our own civilized natures, despite the chaos. However, in our personal lives, all we can do is respond rationally to the system we’re in.
“A better class of people,” as Aaron puts it. There’s no garbage to be found on the mountain – maybe the occasional wrapper that fell out of somebody’s pocket, but that’s quickly removed by another hiker. Decency and openness in all of the faces you see. People who have the gumption to commit to such an exhausting hike, and whose physical bodies – while not necessarily ‘model-skinny’ – are in solid form.