— by Jersey Joe
Today marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of Titanic. Not sure what the fuss is all about.
I first heard of the Titanic when i was in the first grade, Immaculate Conception Grammar School, from Sister Tabitha. In her version of the story, it seems these men, or was it man [mankind] made this big ship which they claimed ‘even God could not sink,’ and, well, you know the rest. OK, that was the ‘scare the hell out of young kids’ Catholic interpretation. Don’t get me started on the passion plays before Easter. The second telling came in the fifth grade, Memorial Elementary School from the best teacher I ever knew, Mr. Oper. In his more reasoned version, ‘they’ [whoever they are who do these things] built this huge ocean liner which some claimed was ‘unsinkable,’ but it hit an iceberg and sunk. Neither of these tellers presented it as a tragedy, more of an accident, or mistake. No romance, no heroics, though I do believe Mr. Oper presented the idea of ‘women and children first,’ which did seem the thing to do in the proper times of the 1950’s.
Affected, or not affected actually, by these two similar versions I never really gave this incident much importance. In the years I taught the World History course in high school, I don’t think I ever mentioned this incident, preferring to get into World War I, the Lusitania did come up, and other events that had some actual effect on society. Nor did any student ask about it, in spite of James Cameron’s attempts to make it of some importance. I was asked about ‘Sandinistas,’ and East Timor, but never about Titanic. Hmm . . .
To me, the lesson I took from those childhood versions was a simple one having to do with the hubris of man [mankind]. That this mighty ship could be sunk by a simple iceberg and that many people died suggested that more care and preparation should have been taken. Maybe it wouldn’t have ended so badly and we would not be stuck with now a 3D version of the event. Nor would people be so concerned with being connected to a 100 year old event, somewhat reminiscent of the ‘Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.’ It also taught me that accidents do happen.
On Friday, CBS This Morning did a piece on Titanic, by Mo Rocca, which stated that in terms of books written on a subject, Titanic ranks third, behind Jesus [2nd] and the US Civil War [1st]. While I’ve always known about number one, and was not surprised by number 2, that this could out publish world wars, and any number of other topics astounded me. Mr. Rocca suggested the interest was in the time it took the ship to sink. In those 2 ½ hours, he wondered about what the people on board, who were only too aware of their fate, might have thought about. He also wondered how people today would react. In light of the recent grounding of the Costa Concordia off the Italian coast, I think we know the answer. He suggested that there was an air of civility back then, and maybe that’s what keeps this event in the public mind. Perhaps he is right.
I’m still going to go with hubris. We often hear about how teenagers get themselves into dangerous situations because they think they are invincible. As adults, we supposedly grow out of this myth. But how many teenagers built the atomic bomb, the hydrogen bomb, nuclear weapons and power plants? How many teenagers have started wars, Alexander the Great aside? And how many teenagers have the hubris to try to connect themselves with this 100 year old event?
Bottom line: They built a ship, it hit an iceberg, it sunk, some people died. Why am I not surprised?
Good news: Only 100 years to the 200th anniversary.
— Just my two sense