On a frosty early morning, death came for more than 1,500 people in a bang as an iceberg gashed the R.M.S. Titanic and the billows of the North Titanic became the graveyard for the once unsinkable cruise liner. One minute the masses were sleeping below deck, the next they were entombed by the embrace of the brutally cold Atlantic waters. Tragedies strike in this way; most of the time unexpected horrors come for us when we least expect them. Wars, national tragedies, and catastrophes can take away innumerable lives and do so in the most indiscriminate of ways. If death is the greatest of equalizers, random calamities that eradicate a sea of humanity makes us all equivalent before chance.
There is one glaring caveat to this axiom. Those who have money in abundance and affluence in spades do not play by the same rules we play. Cash elevates some to the status of royalty as the rest of us are reduced to mere afterthought. Out of the 1,503 people that died on the Titanic, only a few were from the upper crust and privileged class. The mass majority of the dead were third and second class citizens who were never given a chance to fight for their lives. What was done to the huddled masses on April 15th, 1912 was a crime against humanity—the Titanic crew locked the commoners in place and let them drown where they slept.
This abhorrent act of intentionally killing people has been glossed over by the sheer legend of the Titanic. What we remember about the Titanic is the hubris of White Star Line executives stating that the Titanic was unsinkable and the malpractice of Captain Edward John Smith who navigated the ship with a mix of arrogance and negligence. But there are other aspects of the story that are often overlooked and rarely mentioned in the history books, talked about by historians or conveyed by Hollywood productions. For good reasons too, the rich and powerful do not want us to know how utterly depraved and wicked they are when it comes to saving themselves while stepping on the rest of us.
The reason why the third class and second class citizens were sealed in their compartments and left to drown without having a chance to even swim for it is because the rich and wealthy wanted to hoard the lifeboats for themselves. Philip Albright Small Franklin, who was an underling to JP Morgan, said that the Titanic was unsinkable and thus convinced 2,228 to board the fated ship even though there were only enough lifeboats to save a fraction of those on board in the event of a disaster. The rich can take shortcuts to save marginal dollars and boast with arrogance in the process because they are not the ones who will pay for their hubris. The rich, you see, can tempt God because they know we, the people, are the sacrificial lambs in the event of an unfavorable outcome.
When disaster struck on April 15th, 1912, the sacrificial lambs were the impoverished masses and the working class in the hulls and the second class levels. As fathers, mothers and children were watching each other drown in sheer terror unable to get above deck, the rich and the moneyed gentry were calmly boarding the lifeboats in order to save their own hides. The whole notion about women and children first was thrown out the window; first class plutocrats let women and children gargle the Atlantic waters in their tonsils while the aristocracy were rescuing themselves.
There is a part of me that wants to excuse their behavior, it is easy to preach heroism until one’s ass is on the line. But realizing that these wealthy pigs were boarding the lifeboats and casting off with the vessels far from capacity makes me see them for the scum they were. The first lifeboat that splashed into the freezing waters from the sinking Titanic only had 28 people on it even though the lifeboats had an official capacity of 65 a piece—they could have squeezed in upward of 80 if needed. Money has a way of inverting the souls of humans and turning them into gluttonous monsters. Twenty eight people saved themselves and did so by condemning thirty seven people to death because the rich like their comforts even if that means others suffer and perish in the process.
The Titanic serves as an analogy of what is going on in America at this precise moment. We have the 1%, the well-heeled, who are living a life of opulence while the rest of us are buried in perpetual economic stress. Reread the article from the top and imagine that story being told about our time except the iceberg was one of countless instances where the rich were able to escape the gravity of their actions. Think back to the economic crash of 2008 and imagine the iceberg being the mortgage derivative hustle of the multinational banks. When the iceberg hit USs TitanitA and imploded our economy, they locked us commoners in place and let the huddled masses drown in a sea of debt and sank our life savings as the wealthy pricks who gashed our nation were given billions of dollars by way of bailouts and Quantitative Easing to save themselves.
There is another aspect of the Titanic which is rarely talked about yet shows the true malevolence of those who value money above humanity. JP Morgan, who was the owner of the Titanic, was able to actually profit from the sinking of the Titanic after all was said and done. Two weeks before the launch of the Titanic, an insurance policy was taken out that covered the Titanic and would pay out $5 million dollars in the event of a “total loss”, which is the equivalent of $485 million by today’s standard (Titanic’s Insurance evidence). Not only do the rich not play by the same rules as the rest of us, they actually profit while the rest of us are stricken with a cataclysm.
The same way an insurance policy was taken out on the Titanic, a week before 9/11, 2001 the wolves on Wall Street sprang to action as they started to buy puts in the anticipation of a crash. Starting September 6th of that year, put options skyrocketed as “speculators” started to bet against United Airlines and American Airline’s parent company AMR Corp. According to an article published by Bloomberg Financial News (U.S., Germany, Japan Investigate Unusual Trading):
Morgan Stanley, trading in October $45 put options jumped to 2,157 contracts between Sept. 6 and Sept. 10, almost 27 times a previous daily average of 27 contracts. Options to sell Merrill Lynch shares for $45 apiece before Sept. 22 had 12,215 contracts traded from Sept. 5 to Sept. 10, 12 times the earlier daily average of 252. Morgan Stanley shares fell $6.40 today to $42.50. Merrill Lynch shares fell $5.37 to $41.48.
Options are a way to gamble on a future outcome of the markets; if traders are bullish about a specific stock and think the share price of a company will go up more than expected, they will purchase call options because the payout is exponentially greater when when people play the options game. An option is a force multiplier of stocks, for every dollar a share moves up or down, the option could pay out by factors of ten or more in profits. A put option is the complete opposite of a call option, traders take out put options when the expect a sudden move down of a stock or the market as a whole and they reap fortunes when the underlying stock or asset takes a nosedive.
A week before 9/11, traders started to bet against America while the rest of us were going about our business. When the Twin Towers were crashing and taking with them 2,996 lives, our innocence and eventually our freedoms by way of the Patriot Act, billionaires in the know were popping bottles and counting their profits. These are the same scoundrels we worship; they look at us with contempt, we continue to worship at their feet. The same way the wealthy played by a different rule on April 15th, 1912, the plutocrats played by different rules on 9/11 and during the Great Recession of 2008.
Our nation is nothing but one big Titanic ready to be submerged by the ocean of debt that has financed the lives of the oligarchy while the rest of us stress from paycheck to paycheck. It’s astounding really, we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the military-financial complex, which is nothing but a pyramid scheme to transfer wealth from the masses to the wealthy few, yet they have some of us convinced that America does not have enough to give to the most needy. The USA spends more on the military and the war machine than the next 10 countries spend on defense put together yet our bankrupt federal government lets veterans languish homeless and broken in the streets. After taking tons of flesh from the world, now the rich are coming to take flesh from the rest of us.
The social strata of the Titanic is the same social strata of our nation as a whole. Really, we are a country of caste systems. You have the millionaire class who will continue to do well no matter what comes next as they’ll be the first to board the lifeboats when the day of reckoning comes. The billionaire class are already living behind secured gates and built their bunkers a long time ago; if this conflict between America and Russia flares up into a nuclear war (Billionaire Bunkers), they will be comfy below ground eating truffles while the rest of us glow green and eat mushroom clouds above ground. The police state employs enforcers whose job it will be to keep us in place so that the upper crust can go to their lifeboats while the rest of us blow into dust. The sheep bleat along as the wolves sharpen their knives; the illusion of freedom and Democracy prevents us from seeing the iceberg that is coming straight for us. We are all below deck arguing about idiotic politics which we have no control over, about which lives matter more and protesting instead of uniting to realize the eminent peril that we are headed for.
The band played on as the Titanic was sinking; the trombonists and saxophonists serenaded the sinking ship with music in order to assure the passengers below deck that all was going to be OK while the icy waters were approaching their quarters. The band plays on now as a carnival barker Trump and a pied pipers in Congress and the Corporate State Media distract us with cacophonous clangs of outrage, sensationalism and never ending grievances. Our nation is taking on water fast and one day soon enough what we thought to be impossible will shake us into a state of disbelief. The only question that remains is whether that bang will be ICBMs or the implosion of our economy. The former will lead to vapors, the latter will vaporize our way of life and usher in an age of economic depression. Regardless of the eventuality, you can bet your bottom dollar that the rich and famous we love to worship will be living comfortably eating foie gras while the rest of us eat grass. #USsTitanicA
“For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing.” ~ Simon Wiesenthal
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.