Whether we realize it or not, we’re responding with passive acceptance of oblivion.
You’ve undoubtedly heard rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as an analogy for the futility of approving policy tweaks to address systemic crises. I’ve used the Titanic as an anology to explain the fragility of our financial system and the “glancing blow” of the pandemic:
Why Our Financial System Is Like the Titanic (March 15, 2016)
Coronavirus and the “Unsinkable” Titanic Analogy (January 29, 2020)
But there’s a powerful analogy you haven’t heard before. To understand the analogy, we first need to recap the tragedy’s basic set-up.
On April 14, 1912, the liner Titanic, considered unsinkable due to its watertight compartments, struck a glancing blow against a massive iceberg on that moonless, weirdly calm night. In the early hours of April 15, the great ship broke in half and sank, ending the lives of the majority of its passengers and crew.
Of the 2,208 passengers and crew onboard, 1,503 perished and 705 survived. The lifeboats had a maximum capacity of 1,178, so some 475 people died unnecessarily. Passengers of the Titanic (wikipedia)
The initial complacency of the passengers and crew after the collision is another source of analogies relating to humanity’s near-infinite capacity for denial.
The class structure of the era was enforced by the authorities–the ship’s officers. As the situation grew visibly threatening, the First Class passengers were herded into the remaining lifeboats while the steerage/Third Class passengers–many of them immigrants–were mostly kept below decks. Officers were instructed to enforce this class hierarchy with their revolvers.
Two-thirds of all passengers died, but the losses were not evenly distributed: 39% of First Class passengers perished, 58% of Second Class passengers lost their lives and 76% of Third Class passengers did not survive.
Rudimentary calculations by the ship’s designer, who was on board to oversee the maiden voyage, revealed the truth to the officers: the ship would sink and there was no way to stop it. The ship was designed to survive four watertight compartments being compromised,