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Saturday, April 01, 2006

This is how it ends

It took the Titanic about two and a half hours to sink. A few people knew right away that she would go down, while others probably didn't get it until they were breathing seawater. There weren't enough lifeboats, and even the ones they had were fought over and poorly utilized. Help, when it finally arrived, was too little, and too late for the majority of passengers. The wealthy passengers suffered and some died, but the poor immigrants in steerage suffered and died more. The ship had been widely proclaimed to be the best one ever built, and was supposedly unsinkable. She sank in part because she wasn't as great a ship as was claimed, and in part because her owners and operators refused to admit it.

No parallels to be made here. Nope. Not a one.

April fools! Consider 20th Century America to be the Titanic. Built on a strong hull, with numerous fine amenities added over the decades--women's suffrage, forty-hour workweeks, decent wages, civil rights. But then the owners decided they wanted even more money, so they removed the safety features, fired half the crew, and sold the lifeboats for scrap. Finally, they hired a captain who rams icebergs for fun. At least one iceberg has already been struck, and the ship is going down. First-class passengers are still drinking, oblivious, in the ballroom. In steerage, the water is up to their ankles and they know there's a problem, but they're trapped and can't do anything about it. On the deck, the band, or maybe it's American Idol, plays on.

How big does the handwriting need to be? Two of America's, and especially Michigan's, largest employers want to buy out, layoff, and further screw over their remaining workers, even as McMansions continue to be built in exurbia for god knows who. And the water is literally rising. ("Scientists are keen to understand the change in temperatures over the continent [Antarctica] as the region holds enough water in its ice to raise sea levels by 60 metres.")