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Women and children first!
January 20, 2012 - Stephen Browne
"Attempts to formulate a "perfect society" on any foundation other than "Women and children first!" is not only witless, it is automatically genocidal. Nevertheless, starry-eyed idealists (all of them male) have tried endlessly — and no doubt will keep on trying." - Robert A. Heinlein
It is a truism that as every generation ages, they view the times they live in as a degeneration of what they knew in their youth, or what times were like before they were born.
There is a classic quote about how the youth of today are just no damn good and tyrannize their teacher. The joke at the end is when it is attributed to Aristotle.
Aristotle may or may not have said it - but what the joke ignores is that in the time Aristotle lived, his civilization was in the process of committing suicide. Aristotle's pupil, Alexander the prince of Macedonia, shortly thereafter completed his father's work of conquering all of Greece and set out to conquer a pretty big chunk of the rest of the known world. Greece never recovered and has basically lived on its reputation for the last 2,500 years.
The fact is societies do degenerate, civilizations fall, nations vanish from history. Sometimes they recover: Poland, Armenia, Israel, were all refounded after having been conquered, dismembered, or scattered.
But more often they don't. Who remembers the Lusitanians, the Khazars, the mighty Toltecs?
Case in point: the Costa Concordia.
The Italian cruise liner ran aground while the captain was doing something stupid. Not content with causing the disaster, he abandoned ship and disobeyed furious orders from a Coast Guard officer to get back on board and be a man. Crewmen evidently told passengers nothing was wrong and to return to their cabins even as the ship was taking water. Eleven passengers are known dead at present, and more are missing, including a Minnesota couple.
Even more disturbing are sketchy reports that passengers were scrambling for places on lifeboats - and in such a scramble who's going to come out on top? Young men.
Case in point: the Estonia. Known as "the party boat" the ship was a German-built ferry that plied the Baltic routes between Finland, Sweden, and Estonia. Because liquor taxes make drinking an expensive proposition in Scandinavia, young folks liked to take the ferry to Tallinn, Estonia and drink duty-free in transit and party hardy in Tallinn.
The ferry capsized and sunk on 28 September 1994. I was living in Poland at the time. I've taken one of the ferries to Stockholm.
Of the 1,051 passengers on the Estonia, only 139 survived.
Who survived? Young men. Forty-three per cent of male passengers between 20-24 lived. Only five per cent of all women passengers lived, none under 15 or over 65.
Case in point: The SS Titanic went down in 1912. In spite of that slanderous lying movie by James Cameron, the wealthy male passengers died as any man who is a man would want to think he would under the circumstances.
Over three-quarters of the women survived, almost all of the children, and only 20 per cent of the men.
John Jacob Astor, one of the richest men in America, put his pregnant young bride on a lifeboat and gave his place to a woman from steerage class, saying, "The ladies must come first. Do this to please me my dear, and I shall see you later."
Captain Edward J. Smith went down with the ship, as did most of the crew.
First Officer William Murdoch, who James Cameron portrays as taking bribes and murdering a third-class passenger, in actual fact was last seen throwing deck furniture to survivors in the water to keep afloat on. Perhaps Cameron made a movie about his own time, disguised as pseudo-history.
Media have commented on inadequate preparations for disaster on the Costa Concordia. After all, lifeboat drills are such a bore. I vaguely remember from my first Atlantic crossing as a boy, they were just a fact of life on ship we lived with, like the sun and rain.
But the preparations on the Titanic were at least as inadequate, and there weren't enough lifeboats for the passengers, which now seems criminally negligent.
Nonetheless, all accounts indicate the evacuation was orderly. The passengers did not scramble for places, and the doomed men on board did all that untrained men could to assure the safety of the women and children - without regard to class, in spite of Cameron's slander.
The time between the Titanic and the Estonia: 82 years. Between the Titanic and the Costa Concordia: 90 years.
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