Titanic The important lesson that mankind doesn't learn

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Carlos Miguel Ferreira

23:40...almost midnight,...and you’re on this same day, ninety years ago, in the Atlantic Ocean, sailing to America aboard the Titanic.
Suddenly you feel a kind of a small “bump” in your feet.
Little afterwards the noise of the ship engines goes to silence.
Is this a drill? Asking yourself
You didn’t know it yet, but in a couple of hours, your life and the history of all mankind will be marked forever.
After all this, ships are now safe. It is sad that to see that many life’s were lost, in able to have safer maritime regulations.
Why is Titanic a lesson? Look at Chernobyl, in the same month, but 74 years later, another accident, tragic consequences.
Why? Safety was not the first concern.
Trying to cross the North Atlantic Ocean, at full speed with numerous ice warnings, in a ship considered by the press at that time as “unsinkable” is not very different of operating a old nuclear reactor at power run tests, while some operating systems were down for maintenance.
Titanic tried to teach mankind that even the greatest technical achievements can never receive many adjectives as the “most” the “greater”.
Still not convinced? Look at Challenger, the ultimate space travel vehicle.
Due to a defective joint in one of the rockets, another tragedy shook mankind.
Safety procedures have to be, the number one concern, and can never, take another place.
In this last 100 years there are many examples of that.
So, I think that is so important to remember Titanic, to keep the memories alive of the ones that lost their life in that night. And to avoid getting other “Titanic” that could happen in the sea, land or air.
Yours truly,
Carlos Ferreira


(Message edited by carlos_ferreira on April 14, 2002)
Dec 12, 1999
I agree Carlos. But it's one thing to say it, another to do something about it. If no one does anything about criminal negligence when it takes place, then it will happen again. It takes very courageous people to stand first and foremost for safety. There aren't any of those in this story.

Actually, prior to September 11, 2001, I would have said we were ripe for another Titanic disaster. Indeed, the Alaska Airlines plane crashed because of poor maintenance. There were other, smaller disasters than Titanic. But today, I'm more optimistic.

You see, certain attitudes had become common out there. For example, almost universally people in the United States believed that if you acted personally responsible in your actions nothing bad was likely to happen to you. If something did happen, then there must be something wrong with you. Thus, the onus was always on the individual to protect him or herself from danger, and at all times to act "responsibly." Further, it was generally believed that it was not some company's or corporation's fault if you were injured.

Finally, most people felt that the injuries others suffered, or other people's problems, weren't their problems, and often, didn't deserve compensation -- because malingerers were just trying to rip the public off, and increase the cost of insurance.

Then, came September 11, 2001. Thousands of people were instantly killed, for no reason at all. All of these victims had acted responsibily and yet they were snuffed out in a matter of minutes. Something was out of joint here. Sept. 11 didn't fit the theory.

Then, something happened that really challenged the widely worshiped personal responsibility thesis. The New York Times ran personal history biographies on the victims.

The victims, as we know, were widely memoralized as heroes -- people whom we all want to look up to, and reflect up.

Well, the published bioghaphies of the Sept. 11 victims unexpectedly demonstrated that all these people were interesting, caring people who were involved in the lives of other people, in their communities and families, and did good deeds for people other than themselves. Many of them took an interest in others' plight.

The personal biographies of the victims put many of us survivors to shame. These people were doing things, helping the disadvantaged, loving, involved in activities, lives of others. Their quality of life was vastly superior to that of most of us. Yet, WE SURVIVED, THEY WERE DEAD!!!

As such, the rest of the American population started to realized that the aloof, "personal responsibily" theme that so many of them followed was not really what was going on out there -- or what they wanted to be. The heroes were the caring people, who went down with the two towers.

To most people whom I talked to, this was quite a revelation. Americans started to emulate the people who died in the towers, i.e., helping others, caring, making a difference, and being less selfish.

This may be reflected in another change that caught me by surprise, which was the recent, widespread support among the American public, and particularly College campuses, for the plight of Palestinians in the West Bank during the recent civil conflict. Previously, most people didn't know anything about it, didn't care, didn't lke the Palestinians, or they supported Israel. Those attitudes changed radically, and on short notice.

If you read St. Augustine's "The City Of God," certainly, his thesis is that the Titanic disaster will repeat itself -- over and over again. If you read St. Augustine -- there will be a World War III. But I'm very hopeful about the future. I'm impressed with what I learned about the people who died in the towers. I'm very proud of those people, particularly for the things that they did in their lives. I'm proud of the way the American public has reacted. Maybe the Titanic disaster won't happen . . . ever again.

Carlos Miguel Ferreira

Jan, my excuses for this late answer to your post in the message board.

I had never the idea that the tragic events of 11th of September could really make people more caring and being less selfish.

Again, like in the Titanic, it is the fact of the lost of human life, that makes a change, so that people can develop another attitude.

The consequences of the Titanic were due to the death of around 1500 people in the freezing waters of the Atlantic Ocean, better safety measures in navigation, and ships safer appeared afterwards.

It is quite sad that 89 years after, in a society marked by dispute, and greed between human beings, around 4000 people have to die in two towers, to people to start to be more caring, to help others, and to be less selfish.

That should have started long time ago.

One thing I believe, Jan, as long there is injustice in the world, located in Palestine, or in a street of New York, to a homeless with nothing to eat, or in Amazonian rain forest were trees, rivers and Indians are victims of a growing exploration, in name of the financial prosperity of some people, Titanic will repeat itself.

It can have a shape of a ship, country or airplane, whatever. But it will repeat itself on and on.

I have never read anything about St Augustine’s “City of god” and you left me quite curious about it, a help with some extra info, the name of his book, or a site about it for example, would be greatly appreciated.

But as you, I sincerely hope that the “change” that people made in NY, pass to all over the world, and maybe the Titanic never happen...again.

Best regards,
Carlos Ferreira
Dec 12, 1999

I'm not a particularly religious person, but Saint Augustine is an early Christian theologian whom I've read quite a bit.

He wrote the religious treatise "City of God" from 413 to 426 A.D., in which he expressed basically the view that although a man or woman does have "freedom of the will" their wills are constrained by the additional reality that God knew what was "in the power of our wills." This is a way of saying that human beings take actions within a range that they never supersede. Consequently, they make similar mistakes over and over again. (see Book IV, Chapter 10). It is humanity's condition. Augustine states:

Therefore we are by no means compelled, either, retaining the prescience of God, to take away the freedom of the will, or retaining the freedom of the will, to deny that He is prescient of future things, which is impious. But we embrace both.

Moreover, Augustine says that the progress we see in civilization is, in fact, a double-edged sword. It always cuts both ways. With every new invention, or new engineering feat, or advancement -- there is an even worse downside: nuclear energy, on the one hand, an atomic bomb on the other; a great steamship, on the one hand, a huge disaster on the other; a beautiful wonderous skyscraper on the one hand, a killing field for 3,000 people on the other.

With progress, says Augustin, there is always the potential of a greater fall from Grace. We advance higher, and concomitantly, we fall to greater depths.

I fully agree with your point about injustice and financial prosperity of some people at others' expense. The only way to counteract that is to be constantly vigilant, and fight for justice when the opportunity presents itself. One has to stand up, be counted, and not be afraid. The people who do that set the standards for our society because, without justice, we do not have a society at all.

Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?

--------- St. Augustine
(City of God, Bk. 4, Ch. 4)}

Thanks for the interesting discussion, Carlos.

Yours truly,

Jan Nielsen

Carlos Miguel Ferreira

Hello Jan,

Thanks very much for all the information regarding Saint Augustine.

It is quite interesting to notice that in a time (413 to 426 A.D) somebody as warned about the possible “Titanics” that Civilization could face due to progress.

The issue is, on my opinion, about how, we as Mankind consider our achievements.

Unsinkable, total accident free, or able to take full control of the forces of nature, result in tragedy with the loss of many innocent human lives.

Not being a religious person, I think that we as individuals (Still) have a form of sense. There are factors that can bring alterations to them.

Intense Stress, pressure to bring results, or receive an order from your superior that you have to comply. (White Star lines weren’t not in a good shape before the Titanic, and need it to present some achievement to bring passengers)

Of course there are people that don’t comply with things that aren’t ok, according to their knowledge. They are fired and replaced.

Can you imagine the quartermaster, Robert Hitchens not doing a “Hard’ a’ Starboard”!!

Titanic would have collided right front into the iceberg. Theories now say that the ship would afloat.

They would be arriving to NY with a badly damaged stern…and a quartermaster detained. And the press would classify him has “the most insane man in the world”
No doubt about it.

Civilization applies Justice to an individual for his acts, most often afterwards, Civilization was wrong and the individual was right.

What does that stand for? The concept of Justice is in ourselves, if we treat others fairly, despite their options, opinions or beliefs.

There will be always be a 3rd class, in this Ship called “World”, important is that there must be always a place for everybody in the “life rafts” called civilization.

Till the next discussion board,

Yours truly,
Carlos Ferreira

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