Friday 23 June 2023

Ship of nightmares

So, five very rich men have now joined the 1500 mostly very far from rich people who died when the Titanic sank 111 years ago. The extensive - and expensive - search for their submersible has generated a mass of headlines and lots of screen time and, while it’s been moderately interesting to follow, it’s hard not to miss the sharp contrast with that other recent sinking, in the Mediterranean. Viz this very pointed cartoon in The Times yesterday. 

Recap: last week a fishing boat hideously crammed with migrants from Libya trying to escape to Italy sank off Greece. Some men on the top deck were rescued, while around 500 mostly women and children trapped down below drowned, their bodies so far unrecovered. It was initially in the news, but soon dropped out of sight, especially once the Titan submersible got into trouble. 

Amongst all the dreary conclusions to be drawn here (as well, of course, as acknowledging that any life accidentally lost, even of self-indulgent billionaires, is tough), the one I'm focusing on is our apparently never-ending fascination with the Titanic. It's inescapable, in our culture. I mean, like me, you've seen the movie, right? At least once, I bet, and quite possibly several times - you're certainly super-familiar with the quotes and iconic scenes. And, if you've gone overseas much, you'll have come across Titanic displays in various museums and possibly even one of the travelling exhibitions. The big one that's in New York right now I saw in Copenhagen - in 2011. It's still going!

I've certainly seen my share of Titanic stuff, from Jack Dawson's grave in Halifax to a note in a bottle thrown overboard by a passenger in Cobh, Ireland. And of course it's impossible to visit Belfast without going to their striking Titanic museum near the shipyard where it was built. That it was opened a century after the sinking tells you all you need to know about people's morbid fascination with mass deaths. See also my last post (er, also the Last Post) - but especially if there's something glamorous about it. 

Not that the bulk of Titanic's drowned passengers were, nor those on the fishing boat: just poor people trying to start new and hopefully more successful lives than those they were escaping. Nothing glamorous there, at all.

And for today’s tenuous connection, I’m currently sorting out a trip to Wairarapa, which is where James Cameron lives on his huge farm. 

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Oestrogen rules!

I was going to revisit here a train trip I took from New Delhi to Agra, way back in 1980, prompted by the appallingly tragic triple train crash that's just happened in India. But of course that would be somewhat appalling too - insensitively trivialising and tone-deaf. So instead I'm going to write about war as a tourist attraction.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, after all. And who hasn't done a tour of northern France and not been to the beaches, visited Dunkirk, been awed by the white crosses stretching away into the distance at the cemeteries, marvelled at still being able to see the remains of the Mulberry harbour at Arromanches? It's hugely sobering to see it all, stand on the edge of a bomb crater, read the info boards, and imagine the horror of it all - but it's also, be honest, fascinatingly interesting, dramatic and thus, yes, entertaining.

Wherever you (ie I) go in the world, there are wartime (and worse) 'attractions' - I honestly couldn't count the battlefields and war cemeteries I've visited, from Gallipoli to Gettysburg, Adelaide River to Bourail in New Caledonia. Plus Stalag Luft III and, even worse, Auschwitz and the Hanoi Hilton. These places have an irresistible appeal that's a weird combination of honest reverence and regret for all those lives lost and pain inflicted, and a creepy fascination for viewing the utter depths of cruelty that men (it's always men) are driven to by their overwhelming desire for power and territory.

And, though I suppose it's possible to travel the world and have holidays that don't include stuff like this, it's always there, pretty much wherever you go. The tourist industry isn't backward in pointing that out and, yes, exploiting it openly with focussed tours and suchlike. Their main customers are, of course, Baby Boomers, whose parents lived through WW2 - I wonder, once we've all shuffled off , whether younger generations will be quite so interested?

I'm guessing yes. After all, war has been a constant throughout human history, and is certainly front-and-centre right now, with the distinct possibility of others looming, despite the deservedly quite distracting threats of climate change. Do you ever wonder how different things might have been/might be if there were a bit less testosterone swirling through the people in charge around the world?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...