~ Old letters, old silver, old photographs; full speed ahead.
A book about the Titanic sits (among other books) on my coffee table. It is a pretty book, a picture book, containing pictures and illustrations and photographs of art and silverware and artifacts that were once aboard the Titanic, or could have been or should have been. Some are from the Titanic’s “sister ship”, built “just like her”, surviving for awhile after the Titanic sank. I read “A Night to Remember” when I was in fifth grade as I recall, I had seen the movie long before, black and white thing, stark images in the day and then in the night; a “great” ship, testimony to speed and wealth and privilege and technological arrogance, even the “hope” of the steerage class in a faster carriage to their “future” (estate). The book is there (on the coffee table) to remind me, of childhood memories and of lessons learned in childhood.
I liked the Titanic I guess, it was a “wonderful ship”, the emphasis being on the word “wonder”. I would of liked to have once been on the Titanic, to have seen it (before it sank), but always realizing that the price of such a “once” experience would most likely have been coupled with the price of being on the Titanic when it was sinking (unless one managed a perfect shore visit with a perfectly timed ‘exit’ before it sailed, knowing someone who would die (perhaps) and saying ‘goodbye’ before they died and before they knew that they soon would die or at least suffer on the ‘long boats’ in the icy waters of the north Atlantic with just the stars to see and with which to seek ‘wonder’).
With terms like “ship of state” abounding when we were young it is not surprising (perhaps) that many boomers have always viewed the Titanic as something of a metaphor for America, even though she was of course a British ship, headed of course for America (the dream), a dream ‘she’ would never reach, “a shore to far”, too much ice and too great a technology and too large a hubris; but you know the story, steerage (passengers) and tonnes of freight locked inside, locked into the great downward descent, three minutes of life left when the last of the water filled the last air pocket of each compartment, the ‘freight’ was always dead, the water was unnecessary, no “just add water” to end the material appeal of the material things, with the steerage things were different (of course), life struggling for life in locked compartments, there are few pictures of the steerage (passengers) boarding and sailing on the Titanic, no diaries of their lives or deaths, no front page photographs or illustrations of the “silent majority” who died silently (or not so silently) on the Titanic (in the books), the picture books about the Titanic and the “wonder of it all”.
The market went up 416 points yesterday, a “great huzzah” for the market, a great “technical” rally for those who place hope with technology and who don’t remember that the Titanic was at “record breaking speed” when she plowed into the ice (berg) moving at a more natural pace in the north Atlantic waters. If it happened today there would be a lot more pictures, more photographs, more photographs of the ship and the boats and the tear streaked faces as couples said goodbye and as workers held to their stations about to die and as others locked the doors (to steerage) making people die (below decks, without one last glimpse of the stars, to see the wonder one last time, or the ice or the water as a sea, before their death in the holds of a heartless technology). It is a metaphor for the heartlessness of the “ruling class”, of their “efficiency”, of their ability to avoid “unpleasantness” even during unpleasantness. Some ships take a hundred years to “sink” (perhaps) or for the message of their sinking to really “sink in”.
My family was always a “photographic family”, lots of pictures, of lots of things; scenic scenery, people, a few of the family even, but mostly pictures of the way (other) people lived, how they worked, what they did in the course of their everyday life and travels and challenges. Most of those “in the old photographs” are dead now, their cities have died, the world they knew has died and yielded to new cities and new houses and “new times” that they (were they still alive) would not know, recognize, or remember. Empire (like the Titanic) seeks to erase the past, to rob people of all their yesterdays, what they did, where they were. Empire says we are all ‘steerage’, locked in, no means of escape, helpless to save the sinking ship that they know is sinking, with a few (far too few) Empire lifeboats at the ready to be manned (shipside) by the dead pushing off the ‘lucky living’ to a new life in a post-Titanic world.
But there are differences this time between the metaphor and reality. Let there be no mistake, America is the Titanic; she is going down, it will be very sad and very messy, no “watery grave” to quickly “cover it all up”. But the differences are worth noting. This time the “steerage” has cameras, there will be lots of “before and after” pictures, lots of ‘memories’, a living record of the calamity and the cost and of those that both caused it and were (mostly) victims of the great calamity. This time there will be more than a record of the names of the steerage (folks), we will know something of their lives (before) and of how they struggled (afterward, after the ‘berg’, before the ‘ship’ “hit bottom”, broken apart on the bottom (of the sea of history). Don’t “raise the Titanic”, just remember, just revisit the lesson and maintain a healthy respect for ice, cubes of remembrance in each glass of wine (perhaps).
The second difference is that America has no “sister ship”. America is unique, the ‘one’ goes down, and it’s all over, no silver to borrow, no stately staircases to take pictures of, no “four stacks” sailing elsewhere for a haunting picture of a troop ship moving troops to a war begun after the real war was already lost, lost in the north Atlantic, ship down, a technology moving far too fast, a design “shortfall” (we’ll correct it next time). There will be no “next time” for America, one ship (of state), one chance, one “go”, and all too quickly (hubris, arrogance, technological triumph, design flaws and all), and it’s all gone.
Five minutes before the Titanic struck the ice she could have been saved, damaged perhaps, limped to port, repairs made, water tight bulkheads raised, more boats added, enough for steerage (folks) even. “Could have”, “would have”, “should have”; it didn’t happen. No more “what if’s”, no more “timely intervention”, no more “change of heart” with those that had no heart, good “company men”, helping others to die, while they themselves die so that a few lifeboats might sail away; better that they all died (perhaps), maybe then there might have been no war (no first world war, nor therefore no second).
“Titanic Vanishes”, the headlines would say, “not a trace”, “no survivors”. Only strange “radio signals” in the ether, ghost messages about ice and an iceberg, German’s deny everything, no U-boats in the area, peace talks seem necessary to prevent war. It would be a different book on my coffee table, I would have different neighbors, live in a different city, live a different way; live in a world without war (maybe); looking forward to a hundred years of peace when I turn but ’64’ (years of age). No war debt, no living veterans of any war, no grieving widows or mothers or sisters or brothers, no Empire; America meeting its one time promise, infrastructure modified, structural defects fixed, attitudes of command (and leadership) changed, but it’s all too late. “Could have”, “would have”, “should have”; it didn’t happen, it will not happen, ice ahead, no “green house warming” to save you (or anyone), take pictures.
In the early days (of our family) we would wait to take pictures (of our house) after we knew we were moving. By then, of course, everything had changed. Things were the same (almost), but the “spirit” was gone, ‘we’ had decided to “sell” or “move” or “move on”, and with that decision life itself had changed; the house was not the same, we had already (mentally) left. Eventually we learned to take a few pictures as we went along, of “every day life”, before a move changed everything. If one has ever moved, ever changed work locations or work, ever known a death, one knows of what I speak. One knows that they “should” take more pictures (if pictures are important) to capture those everyday things of life that is life that seems like they will never change. Things do change. Things change quickly.
The fear is not of “quick change”, but of “sudden change”, like the Titanic thing; five minutes that might have happened, five new minutes that did happen, five minutes to learn what happened, five minutes for panic or planning, five minutes to say “goodbye”. It doesn’t have to happen in this way. But it can. For some it will. Even steerage (passengers) can still leave this ship, put together ‘lifeboats’, hide in first class passageways behind the potted palms, get ‘off’ the ship or prepare for life in the ‘open sea’ where class no longer matters and money is pretty much worthless. Bernanke is now the captain, and Bush too, and countless others with no greater wisdom (which means none) who know the ship is doomed and do not care for who’s on board; chivalry is truly dead, they are captains of a “death ship”, and they do not care (for themselves or for anybody else). Don’t be fooled by their smiles, their ‘smiling faces’ (song lyric alert).
If you are new to this site, read or reread the past posts. I increasingly find there is little new to say. There are ‘pictures’ (in words) of the past and of the present. There are a few pictures of the future maybe, the more pleasant possibilities. I try to stay away from danger, from unnecessary sorrow, from needless loss. Each day (of life) is a gift (not just a day of science). Each thing (or person) I see will soon change, some things will soon be gone, others will soon be changed, I should take more pictures (Now), so I might remember, before I forget, before they make books built around evening gowns and lifeboats and not of the lives of hopeful emigrants never to become immigrants, never to live their dreams of “America” in America. We are all emigrants perhaps, let go and live, find better boats, walk up (or off) different planks, do not die in the “fastest ship”, you will die far too fast (as advertised).
The story of the Titanic is far too sad for words, or for any deep thought about the fates of those aboard. All pictures are trivial in portraying the travail. All accounts were written by the living while alive and not the dead while dying, not physically so much, as is “the death of hope” before the reach of new hope arrives. Take pictures Now. Remember what was lost. Remember how it was. The Titanic was a prison, a prison ship, it locked lives away from life, underpaid coalers shoveling coal 24 hours a day breathing coal dust (black lungs) so that gowns could dance and gangsters could play at being “gentlemen” and have their names remembered for their (what was really) buffoonery and madness. Beware in where you place your “hope”, your “trust”, your “god”; there is no magic sign in “416”, nor in any Dow (save down), until it does not exist, sunk beneath the waves, at peace at last, no longer anything but a beacon (and a reminder) of the deep (of how deep the bottom).
There was a woman aboard the Titanic that was certain it would sink. She upset the other passengers with her dire warnings, the crew sedated her but she continued on, whispering the warning, coughing out the words, telling all she could, being a nuisance or a prophet or just someone who might have seen the obvious, or known. There should be statutes of this women in shipyards, her face should shine from coins, her portrait should be at every post office and in every office of the federal reserve and greet each visitor to the White House. Empire does not honor those that know (or knew) or saw things coming. Write “Fallon” on your money, on the bathroom stalls, on the subway walls (graffiti is something I normally don’t believe in, but this is an emergency). If graffiti is really illegal, don’t write with marker or paint, just write mentally, see “Fallon” everywhere, see it wherever graffiti is, take warning.
Fallon is of course the Ghandi of our time (meaning this past year), the last best hope of peace, the last hope of a “soft” landing, the last hope of the “final five” minutes of hope before the “crunch” of ice against steel as a metaphor for a naval guy soon gone (April 1st) to the pages of history. Take Pictures Now. Take Pictures Now! TAKE PICTURES NOW! (You decide).
[2008.03.12 / Wednesday – Take Pictures Now]