Friday, January 27, 2012

Sailing Off Course

So as not to let a writing effort go to waste, I thought I would post the column I wrote earlier in the week for the TFP, one that was ultimately supplanted by my State Of The Union piece.  I hope you get a kick out of it ... 

It seems amazing that something so large could be allowed to go so far off course, permitted to sail so close to potential disaster, and with danger largely ignored, fail to prevent it running aground on a known hazard. It's astonishing that the person allegedly in charge should all but abandon the charges in his care in a cowardly attempt to save his own skin. It's astounding that as more information becomes known, this person should now attempt to blame everyone and everything around him but his own failed policies and foresight. And in spite of all the mistakes made, responsibilities abandoned, and in a total failure of leadership, it appears likely that he will ask to be placed in command once more.

Oh sure, you thought I was talking about the recently unsuccessful attempt by the Carnival cruise ship Costa Concordia (with the assistance of the Island of Islo del Giglio) to prove that two objects could in fact occupy the same space at the same time. I was however, talking about another top heavy behemoth that has been off course for some time now. One which seems often to go out of its way to find things to run into … the ship of state.

As for its captain; he appears to have abandoned the concept of working with the rest of the crew to pick a less dangerous course, in favor of taking up the fight to retain his exalted rank and extravagant privilege instead. In traditions more befitting those of captains like the Bounty's Bligh, this one stood cap in hand before us, pleading the case yet again that the cause of all the untoward events of these last three years of voyaging are the fault of the previous captain, members of a sometimes mutinous crew that has refused to follow his wise orders, and passengers who apparently have not paid enough for the voyage. But after lecturing for months that the only way to maintain a properly working ship is for all to work together to keep it on course, he once again seemed unable to heed his own advice, and there is little doubt that we will see a return to a typical election year's acrimonious invective and rancorous rhetoric.

This is not to say that there isn't some cause for the captain's complaint, or that there hasn't been a sizable element opposing both the course being followed and the treatment of crew and passengers alike. Nor is to say that this crew and its ambitions are either altruistic or above reproach, or that they have shown the ability to steer a better course themselves. Such opposition when it deigns to make an appearance is in fact often both inconsistent and disingenuous. Many of the crew seem far more concerned with maintaining or improving their position in the chain of command than improving the lot of the passengers aboard or reaching a more desirable destination. Few have shown the courage of their convictions when faced down by captain, fellow crew, or passengers.

Swaggering around deck and with little clear idea where they would sail if the wheel were placed in their hands, they appear instead content to merely to complain. When put to the question however, their course in fact seems little different from that of their ill-fated captain, with the amount of sail raised amidst the growing storm as their only point of debate. None seems capable of operating a moral compass or charting a clear course away from the dangerous waters that we find ourselves in, nor avoiding the growing maelstrom around us. Any among them that appear of sound judgment or a with grasp of the real dangers at hand are shouted down by captain and crew alike as rabble rousers and trouble makers by a multitude growing in size, ignorance, and inflexibility.

And what do we hear from this blustering and boisterous majority? Is not the captain in charge? Has he not already told us that the ship of state would be in far worse shape had we not sailed the course he has charted? Have we not already given him our every confidence, that we should now question his leadership? Does he not have an able group who still believe in him?

Perhaps then, we are little more than a Ship of Fools; blind to the faults in captain and crew, ignorant of the dangerous waters we sail in, and oblivious to the rising storm around us. Perhaps it's our fate to continue sailing off course until like the ill-fated Costa Concordia, we too capsize, floundering in rising waters far too deep for us to fathom.


Roland Hansen said...

O Captain! My Captain!

Timothy W Higgins said...

Oh to have the literary vision or talent of Walt Whitman.
(And here I thought all he did was make chocolate...)