On April 14 1912 the RMS Titanic sank with the loss of over 1,500 lives – over 500 hundred came from Southampton, this community was devastated. In the street I lived in Southampton, Malmesbury Road, over 10 people were lost – take a moment to think about that, 10 people from your street have died in a tragedy, how would that affect you. Of course it is not just the ten people who died, it was their families, wives, mothers, children without income, and then there were the survivors, living with that night for the rest of their lives. Titanic was a disaster, but it was tragedy for the community.
The Titanic story has become a legend, many other ships sank, the tragedy of the Titanic lives on, perhaps because of the horrific facts of the disaster – not enough life boats to save the people, a rescue ship a few miles away ignoring the distress calls, the wireless being improperly used, the over confidence in engineering, and perhaps worst of all the disaster partially a result to ‘be the fastest’.
It should be remembered, but I feel uneasy about the hype surrounding the anniversary, and no more uneasy than the memorial cruise of the MS Balmoral to retrace the steps of the Titanic. On person on Twitter put the question like this:
in 2109 will they celebrate Twin Towers by flying a plane into a building?
that seems the problem, the Titanic tragedy has turned into a celebration, it has become a consumable commodity (and in a sense this blog is doing the same, it is monopolizing on the tragedy), but it throws into the limelight the way that society now creates a media event out of the horror of past events for the purposes of consumption, we commodify tragedy into triviality. In June I am hoping to attended the ‘Wartime Event’ at the Great Central Railway,one of many such events organised by preserved railways. I remember attending such an event a few years ago at the Cricklade Railway I attended an was left wondering what it was all about, why were commercializing the Second World War, it seemed fairly barbaric – I hasten to add that the reason I show an interest both events was for the trains.
What is more disturbing, and boardering on the sick, is that artifacts from the Titanic that have been salvaged are being auctioned – is this just grave robbing?
We seem to consume our history for profit, rather than for remembering, perhaps even the most sacred act of remembrance in this country – Poppy Day – is becoming a commercial event as that past of couple of years has seen the growth of jewellery which is more about style than content – the link to the Guardian article is here.
I am not sure we can turn the clock back, I am afraid this is the price we pay for living in a capitalist society, that everything is for sale, everything is a commodity, everything a commercial opportuinity.
Lets take time on Saturday to remember that the sinking of the Titanic was not a media event but a haunting tragedy that affected thousands of lives, left people scared for life, and left woman and children destitute, above all lets remember the human cost of this tragedy and not the monetary prize to be gained.