The Guardian • Issue #2060

We are not “all in the same boat”

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2060
Quill and ink .

Comrade Editor,

The drama involving the submersible Titan, in the North Atlantic near Newfoundland was followed by millions worldwide. The vessel’s five passengers undertook the voyage to view the wreckage of the Titanic, the ocean liner that sank in April 1912 with some 1500 victims, which lies 3800 metres beneath the surface. One hundred and eleven years later, class divisions have reached an even higher and more malignant stage. It has now become a tale, in fact, of two vessels – the Titan, on the one hand, and the fishing boat that sank on 13th June in the Mediterranean, killing hundreds of desperate refugees, on the other.

The nonstop media coverage of the North Atlantic episode is vastly different from the treatment devoted to last week’s terrible tragedy off the Greek coast. There the individuals, Pakistanis, Egyptians, Syrians, Afghans, and Palestinians, died for the most part nameless and uncelebrated. Some of them may never be identified.

Another harsh irony lies in the fact that two wealthy Pakistanis were passengers on the Titan, while hundreds of impoverished Pakistani men, women and children succumbed in the Mediterranean, leading to outrage and protests in their native country.

Far from facilitating rescue efforts, European governments, especially Greece’s are directly responsible for the conditions that led to the mass drowning. Officials lied and covered up their role, and slandered the dead and injured. The surviving refugees were thrown into a filthy warehouse facility. Media personalities could hardly stay awake recounting the facts.

Large scale death is now business as usual for these people. The clear implication of the reporting was that the suffering refugees had brought their fate on themselves.

Saving the hundreds on board the fishing vessel near Greece, once they were clearly in jeopardy, would have been far easier than rescuing a vessel resting on the bottom of the sea – for any government or naval force that desired to do so. It’s legitimate to raise the question whether, given the homicidal record of the European governments involved, the refugees’ deaths may have been deliberately facilitated, as a means of setting an example and intimidating others.

Of course, the entire tragedy could have been avoided if the fleeing people had simply been allowed, as they should have been, to move with dignity and without obstruction from one continent or country to another. Their mass flight has largely been precipitated by the imperialist wars and other operations carried out by Western powers, the very regimes now presiding over their deaths at sea.

Social inequality, neocolonial war, the growth of authoritarianism and anti-immigrant hysteria, the debasement of  official politics and the media – there is “a world of meaning … in the sad circumstances” of these two contrasting episodes.

Unmistakably, however, the general movement of the mass of the population, in the face of a dysfunctional, criminal social order, is toward the left, toward social revolution.

Jim Cowie

The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More