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