I am a critic. I write critical reviews on every aspect of diving but we jumped up journalists have to be careful. The laws in Britain might allow us to tell the truth, provided you can prove it really is the truth, but in America things seem slightly different. In that country the pursuit of the almighty US Dollar is tantamount to a religion, and businesses can actually tie you up for years in lawsuits if they can prove you stopped them making that sacred buck. Profits are as important as prophets and the consumer is merely a bystander, that is unless he can bring a case of his own against a manufacturer, in which case the party with the most funds available to feed the hungry legal system wins, or rather loses less than the other party. That is because the legal system too is focussed in its pursuit of the almighty Dollar. Justice seems purely incidental. The Dollar is a god.
In diving, it isn’t only the Dollar that is the subject of religious zeal. Some people will follow the teachings of their training agency as zealously as some others with follow the teachings of Abraham, Jesus, Mohammed, Joseph Smith or L. Ron Hubbard. Without impugning the divinity of the first three, and apologizing in advance to those that believe the last two are equally divine, I have to point out that dive training, whether it be PADI, IANTD, TDI, SSI, or even GUE, was obviously devised by ordinary men who are not prophets but simply pursuing profits.
However, pay good money for a course and you will want to believe what you were told was credible. Many don’t want to be made to pause for thought.
That said I still find it strange that a review of one simple item of diving equipment made in Florida can precipitate the outpouring of hostility on the Internet, especially in the USA, that it has. It was not even as if the review was unfavourable!
It was simply that it was not the unadulterated adulation that the disciples of a particular training agency demand. Why do they demand it? Because the company in Florida that makes the equipment has a tie-up with the training agency that not only teaches its students in a rigorous one-way-to-do-things manner but also dictates the brand of equipment they should use, and is sold to them as naturally perfect in every way. Beliefs cannot be challenged.
Now if this smacks of the way Islamic Fundamentalists do things, you may be right but these are fundamentalists of a different god. The anonymity of the Internet allows people to say angry things that they would never dream of saying to anyone’s face. It’s an important characteristic of mob rule. In a mob you can feel free to throw an anonymous stone. It probably won’t kill anyone. Harsh words are the stones of the Internet.
Now don’t think I am pointing the finger at only one particular group of people. Let’s go back to the pursuit of money. We may be slightly more coy about it in the UK but we are certainly particular about the way we spend our hard earned cash. No one wants to hear an opinion that they spent their money unwisely and they often react in a similar manner to someone who sees their prophet illustrated in a cartoon in an unsympathetic pose.
A British magazine recently printed my review of a new item of kit that I thought had a problem. Others that owned equipment bearing the same brand, but not that actual item of kit you’ll note, turned out in numbers on the internet to metaphorically throw stones and burn down embassies in a demonstration of blind brand loyalty.
As for rebreathers, well that’s a very touchy subject. I am on record as being at the forefront of those that promoted closed-circuit diving but that does not absolve me in any way from the rioting mobs at my gate. I suppose that any rebreather owner spends so much time defending the safety record of this way of diving because there have been so many well-publicized casualties, that most have their hackles permanently raised.
Rebreather diving is in its infancy. People who are seen doing a rebreather try-dive one week set themselves up as experts a fortnight later. But there is so much money at stake in the purchase of one of these complex pieces of equipment they get very grumpy at any criticism whatsoever. I guess that means more stones coming my way! I wonder why it is not the same with the really major purchases of our lives, our houses and our cars? Is it because the car came with the job and the actual price we pay for our house is so enormous that we dare not think about it? I recently had four windows replaced in my own house at the cost of £18,000 [Ed:. about US$32,000]. Yes, you read that right. Now tell me I was ripped off, but don’t you dare tell me my windows are not perfect. I’ve got plenty of stones of my own!