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The Costa Concordia, The Titanic and the Value of Human Life

January 20, 2012

 BBC News has been talking non-stop about the crash of the cruise ship Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy for the past few days. The crash is certainly a news-worthy story; the idea of a pleasure cruise on what many would deem the “safest way to travel” (ensconced on a floating paradise, with all possible amenities and luxuries) going horribly wrong is intriguing. The mysterious circumstances surrounding the ship’s crash on shallow rocks just off the Tuscan coast also raises many questions, such as why a ship would be traveling so close to the coastline and why none of the crew seemed aware that the rocks existed.

The Costa Concordia, as seen on bbc.uk

            What is most intriguing of all about this story is, in fact, the media attention. Shipwrecks, although they might seem like a relic of the past (to me, they bring to mind ships with masts being forever lost in high seas as they try to circumnavigate to, say, the Spice Islands and, also, the Titanic—but more on that in a bit) but they do in fact still happen today. Ships—and we’re talking huge ships, not people on their personal yachts or pleasure crafts—sink or get beached throughout the world. Sometimes, lots of people die, and by “lots of people” we’re talking in the thousands. The quite-entertaining (but perhaps npt so politically-correct) website Hofstrizz.com (see link at bottom of the page), which I found a while back while perusing shipwrecks (I find half-submerged ships fascinating and terrifying at the same time) bluntly explores the idea of what one can only call class prejudice.

            4000+ people die on a Philippino ferry in 1987. 1863+ people die on a Senegalese ferry in 2002. These were relatively recent wrecks. These were huge losses of human life. But, when we think of shipwrecks, do any of these come to mind?No. We think of the Titanic and, after the amount of coverage off the coast of Giglio, the Costa Concordia will no doubt be branded in any news-watching citizen’s mind. As citizens of the Western world, we remember the Titanic and the Costa Concordia because the media covered them extensively—heck, the film Titanic became the biggest movie of all time before that Avatar came along (and holds a place in my heart as my all-time-favorite film) and one about the Costa Concordia will probably be on the horizon sooner than you think. The question is, why do we only hear about  these certain wrecks while much larger wrecks go unnoticed?

            The only answer I can think of is class prejudice. The Hoffstrizz.com website discusses this, and I can only wholly (and disgustedly) agree. The Titanic was not the biggest shipwreck ever, but it is forever cemented in the minds of the world because of the drama and people surrounding it: the Titanic was a glamorous passenger liner on it’s maiden voyage, an expensive floating work of art with some of the richest people in the world on board. Thus, the media was riveted. And although I haven’t heard anything specific about the passengers on the Costa Concordia, by default they were all financially comfortable enough to be able to take a cruise around the Mediterranean. Oh, and another thing: although there were passengers from Asia aboard (like the Korean couple that was rescued after the initial jumping-ship) most of the passengers were white/European/American.

The sunken Titanic, courtesy of titanicuniverse.com

            Is the media trying to say that only rich, white people matter? I think yes is the resounding answer. The example of the Costa Concordia (where the death tally is, although terrible, only at 11 at the moment—a far cry from the 4000+ on that Filipino ferry) is only one of many. There are train wrecks, collapsing bridges and other regrettable disasters that happen every day throughout the world which involve huge losses of human life, but we never hear about them. If a few people die in the USA, it becomes major world news and we have collective moments of silence, but, say, if the president and most of the cabinet of Poland die in a plane crash (as happened in April 2010) there’s not much mention (ah, but they were rich and white! So perhaps we should add that the most important people are those who are rich, white, and from dominating European/Western countries). Another good example: look at the thousands of people dying of starvation and draught in the Horn of Africa. Don’t you think that the news would be non-stop and relief programs working 24-7 if this happened in the USA?

            The capsizing of the Costa Concordia serves as yet another lesson in human interaction, another lesson in the value of human life. It makes us question how a man could be entrusted as sane and capable enough to run a mammoth cruise  ship but then take such strange actions as he did to provoke the capsizing of the ship and then display a blatant indifference to the life of the passengers placed under his care by abandoning ship and lying to authorities. (I’m particularly interested in how on earth he thought that crashing a cruise ship right off the coast of Italy and jumping ship as though on the run would go unnoticed and unquestioned). Every life matters, no matter who you are or where you’re from or however much money you have in your wallet. We shouldn’t lose sight of such values, or we’re all going to be sunk at the bottom of the sea like Atlantis!

Links:

1. This entertaining website whereI found the list of huge shipwrecks http://www.hoffstrizz.com/2010/03/the-12-biggest-shipwrecks-in-naval-history-peacetime-edition.html

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2012 6:47 AM

    Thanks for visiting my blog. Your post brings up a point about how precious life and how it is measured. In China with its population of a billion plus, one life more or less is not noticed. I found this out when I visited a hospital. They treated disease seriously but had an entirely different view on critical care. Saving life was not taken to the extremes of the US health system. The ICU had few patients. Fate definitely had a hand in life and death.

    There are so many other examples of social inequality and injustice. Look at hunger.

    • January 21, 2012 7:57 AM

      Thank you very much! And yes, in the USA people treat sickness/death with much more drama (I’m guilty of that, I admit!) I feel than other cultures. And yes I mentioned hunger in my post, social injustice is something that greatly interests (and horrifies) me and I wish people would waken up to the fact that it exists.

  2. January 24, 2012 7:24 PM

    I must admit that I’m a bit put off by your comment about “rich” Europeans/Americans (white folk for the most part) can only afford to cruise, when in fact cruising is very affordable way to vacation. On the Costa line cruises begin at $349.00 (US) for a 3 day cruise in the Med. A weekend in San Francisco would cost more than that. My point is that you don’t have to be rich to cruise, only willing to spend several days on a ship and let someone else drive! So I don’t believe it’s a question of class prejudice, because I bet there were people on that cruise that saved their pennys to go on that cruise. If you need to save up to go on a cruise, then I wouldn’t count that as being rich. As it was there were only 126 Americans on board that ship (out of over 4000), and two are as of today still unaccounted for. And if you are rich, and I mean really rich, you don’t go on a ship the size of the Costa Concordia. People with excessive amounts of money go on their own ship or sail on smaller ships where they have more privacy.

    The captian was 4 miles off course. Why? I heard it was so he could show someone his house, now is that true? I’m not sure, but he was off course and he knew it.

    The media is to blame for their reporting and how they report on what happens on the planet. Why do you think we don’t hear about the Kenyan Army going into Somolia? We don’t hear about it because the media decided that it doesn’t matter to the rest of the world. But I know it matters to Kenyans! On the flip side, when Northern Ireland had all of those problems way back in the 70’s and 80’s, the media reported on it big time. Apparently it was deemed important enough for us to hear about it. I’m not so sure how the media reports on what happens as being class prejudice. I think it’s a matter that the media will report on what they deem important. It’s not right, and it’s not fair, but it is what it is and there is little anyone can do about it aside from buying the newspapers/TV Networks and changing the focus on what they report on.

    .

    • January 25, 2012 5:58 AM

      Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the word “rich,” and instead the phrase “being comfortable enough to waste money on a cruise,” as I agree that of course you don’t have to be rich to go on a cruise. I still stand by my viewpoint that the media will only report on people who are either rich or “comfortable” i.e. not struggling to put food on the table. Overall, I’m not sure how the media would weigh that the Costa Concordia shipwreck was “more important” than, say, the Filipino ferry wreck that I mentioned. What would be their excuse? Simply that the Costa concordia people were pleasure-cruisers on vacation in the waters of the Mediterranean?

      I know that the media won’t change, but I still find it pathetic nevertheless.

  3. thepiratehorizon permalink
    February 18, 2012 2:49 AM

    ciao you there. u saw it right: we’re west-centric, euro-centric. used to consider (the peoples of) the rest of the world not our business, if it does not affect our money or some of our guys don’t come back in a black body bed with a flag around.

    the death of an afghan civilian hits us less that a stray cat chiling on the street. media just use this pattern.

    south and far east have been too long a place to fish out resources. we traded with dictators til yesterday, in africa, and staged the democratic when revolutions exploded. years of undeservedly comfy life made us immune from sorrow and compassion, and more apt to enjoy melodrama. so the next titanic is more appetizing for the media than the next philippino ferry. because u know, we love to enjoy ourselves in a continual, obsessive masturbation, unable to fuck anyore with some “other” than ourselves.

    media just talk the language and stories we wanna hear. that’s all. no shortcuts are possible, the system is well lubed.
    good blog here.
    ciao

    • February 18, 2012 11:47 AM

      You had some really interesting points. In light of the celebrity mags I would say yes, we are so obsessed with ourselves and love drama simply for the point of drama—but wait, it can’t just be any old person having a mental breakdown/collapsing marriage/rehab-adventure, it has to be someone who’s skinny, pretty, and well off. Actually, in a strange way we almost like to tear ourselves down and gloat when the rich have problems…alas, that’s another post…

  4. edward permalink
    June 2, 2013 4:27 PM

    no ship is worth human
    life, let it go, another one can always be built.anic, or anything else.
    the stupud thing of woman and children first,was a stupid arrogannt regulation left over from victorian times thinking men are brave to go down with a ship.
    totallly stupid,and blind.
    it dont matter what it is?
    let it go downand geautocrazy@ruraltel.nett off of it.

  5. edward permalink
    June 2, 2013 4:29 PM

    no ship is worth human life.
    if something happens get off of it,and let it go down. another one can alway’s be built,

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