"You guys, just had to go for the glory, didn't you... i read the article in Details magazine and thought i'd drop you a line...it would have stayed a nice nifty operation we all had, just quietly going about our business, harmlessly dropping in to places and taking a quiet look around, but now every IDIOT and his cubicle partner is going to go try..."
- from a letter to Jinx magazine, 4/2000.
Undergrounders and rebels, having rejected the constraints of societal ethics, distressingly tend to create new rules and obey them instead. The tortuous codes of honor among thieves disappoint because they highlight our fear of freedom; they suggest man is incapable of independence, and would rather obey than think. A self-imposed ethic has lately arisen from the Urban Exploration movement. The rule, as we understand it, is Urban Explorers Don't Talk to the Press. Three arguments are offered to support this code of conduct. First, it is said, talking to the press will transform the cozy family of Urban Explorers into a popular movement, with yuppies and other undesirables getting into the act. Tourists, in this scenario, will shortly arrive to ruin our unspoiled sewer pipes. Second, publicity of the illegal activities involved will bring the attention of police. Third, it is unseemly to seek the attention of the media; the love of exploring should be enough. These meretricious arguments collapse under Jinx analysis, as follows.
1. Neither evidence nor logic supports a theory that yuppie tourists will encroach on Urban Exploration. The argument suffers from its reduction of any non-member of "the club" to a stereotype. Say we find some uninitiated wanderer in some favorite sub-basement, and it transpires he has been drawn into this hobby by an article in Details or a televised interview with Jinx. What basis have we for dismissing him as a yuppie? The characteristics we disparage in real-life yuppies are not likely to describe someone crawling through a storm drain. If we can define a yuppie as a shallow, materialistic, status-conscious careerist, we can also define him as a very poor candidate for sewer spelunking.
The fear that our beloved tunnels and rooftops will become tourist attractions arises from an analogy between these urban sites and various scenic natural settings. Day trippers, with their litter and brats, have ruined many a fine secluded spot; why shouldn't they do the same in the dark passages of urban adventure? The absurdity of this analogy follows as the night the day. The natural habitats of Urban Explorers are not conducive to tourism. They are always illegal, usually dangerous, and often dark, cold, filthy places.
2. Certain UE buffs have gravely warned that the media coverage of Urban Exploration will bring police attention. Implied by this suggestion is that real harm will come of this attention; to wit: a rash of arrests, and perhaps violence, will result.
This kind of cowardly foolishness is the despair of all true adventurers. The disease of paranoia elevates a person's sense of self-importance to such absurd heights he believes others would bother to persecute him. The fantasy that the police would concern themselves with the harassment and capture of serial trespassers is strange enough; it becomes incredible when we imagine they would devote the resources necessary to stake out every storm drain, cellar, subway tunnel, rooftop, hotel, and bridge.
3. The significant part, driving all other arguments opposing the publicizing of Urban Exploration, is a cringing hatred of fame itself. Without resort to rationale of any kind, some among us are tempted to lash out at others for being "media hungry," for seeking glory. This invective raises an essential question about adventure. Why do we explore?
Exploration is a grasp for power. It is a bloodless path to new territory. The urge to expand ever outward, as a tree reaches ever deeper into the dark soil and higher into the air, is the central drive of all life. Every new environment on earth, however harsh, yields life - bacteria grow on the superheated volcanoes at the bottom of the sea, in the waste water of nuclear power plants and in the solid fuel of the space shuttle. It is no accident we feel an instinct to probe the unknown. It is our most fundamental purpose.
The same will to power that tempts us into new territories will urge us to jealously guard them. Having gained a new outpost, we fortify it against others who might seek to share it with us. Likewise, we guard the new identity gained through exploration. We struggle against its dilution by latecomers. The wish to enshroud our urban proving grounds in secrecy is finally an attempt to stave off trespassers from land we claim as our own. The wish to keep the general population excluded from our movement is a fear that popularization will water down our identity.
This is the dark side of power, a wish to protect out of cowardice what we have won by courage. In clinging to our status as explorers, we forfeit it. A true explorer isn't wedded to his land. He is rootless and striving. When we barricade ourselves in fortresses, we imprison ourselves there. The true spirit of exploration admits no exception to the Infiltration credo: go places you're not supposed to go.
Fear must not silence us, Nor must territoriality or unreasoned moralism. We have an obligation to the truth, and to the brave everywhere seeking new grails to hunt for. The tradition of exploration has always brought an open exchange of information, both with fellow explorers and with the laity. The news and entertainment media are weapons. Will we use them, or let them be used against us? Will we cower in the darkness as outsiders define our profession? Or will we guide the press in defining Urban Exploration for the world, so that true adventurers might join us in our task, and softhearted dilettantes might know where they must fear to follow?