Friday, 13 April 2012

Accelerating into the Dark III: the Titanic as Metaphor for Civilization

Continuing with the theme of metaphors and analogies for the unfolding crisis of civilization, Joe Romm has a great post on the hundred year memorial of the sinking of the Titanic.  This is a modern morality tale that has much to tell us about our attitudes to threats such as global warming and ecological degradation.  The best part is probably the transcript of James Cameron's talk on the National Geographic Channel that makes some remarkably strong links between the Titanic and our current climate situation.  [Addendum: In fact, the more I read Cameron's quote, the better and better it seems as a little piece of mereological and systems analysis, I'm writing a lot about momentum at the moment, plus operational closure, as I wrestle with The Democracy of Objects.  This is getting filed away for inclusion in the current book project.  One wonders what descending to the bottom of the Mariana Trench does for one's perspective?]
Part of the Titanic parable is of arrogance, of hubris, of the sense that we’re too big to fail. Well, where have we heard that one before?

There was this big machine, this human system, that was pushing forward with so much momentum that it couldn’t turn, it couldn’t stop in time to avert a disaster. And that’s what we have right now.

Within that human system on board that ship, if you want to make it a microcosm of the world, you have different classes, you’ve got first class, second class, third class. In our world right now you’ve got developed nations, undeveloped nations.

You’ve got the starving millions who are going to be the ones most affected by the next iceberg that we hit, which is going to be climate change. We can see that iceberg ahead of us right now, but we can’t turn.

We can’t turn because of the momentum of the system, the political momentum, the business momentum. There too many people making money out of the system, the way the system works right now and those people frankly have their hands on the levers of power and aren’t ready to let ‘em go.

Until they do we will not be able to turn to miss that iceberg and we’re going to hit it, and when we hit it, the rich are still going to be able to get their access to food, to arable land, to water and so on. It’s going to be poor, it’s going to be the steerage that are going to be impacted. It’s the same with Titanic.

I think that’s why this story will always fascinate people. Because it’s a perfect little encapsulation of the world, and all social spectra, but until our lives are really put at risk, the moment of truth, we don’t know what we would do. And that’s my final word.

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