FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Titanic Fantasies

by BINOY KAMPMARK

“Just count on the life boats.”

-Billy Zane, People Magazine, Mar 7, 2013

Evidently, losing a hold on the Australian National Party has rattled the man, but one of Australia’s richest figures feels that history ought to repeat itself, expressing his desire to build another Titanic with that same hubristic pointlessness that doomed the first project.  There are reasons why certain catastrophes find their place in lore, but mining magnate Clive Palmer will have none of that.  One human’s disaster is another’s opportunity, and he is keen to imitate everything.  Well, almost everything.

Palmer wishes to build an exact replica of the liner that sank in April 1912, and most probably capturing the exact atmos – first, second and third class, the grand staircase, the gastronomy, the dancing, and, if his culturally informed advisors are at hand, much Bermet to consume before the sinking.  The fact that Palmer wishes to not merely fund the construction of the monster but take the very same route from Southampton to New York suggests his sheer desperation to leave something to posterity. Making money renting and extracting the earth must batter the conscience after a while.  Time for some flair and acts of sheer madness.

Australian comedians found the stuff of dreams in the announcement.  Shaun Micallef, in his snappy news comedy Mad as Hell, suggested that Palmer was a larger than recommended medical character.  Palmer himself came out to the press to make the trite observation that anything with a hole in it will sink.  “I think you’d be very cavalier to say something like that.”  Besides, chances of being struck by an iceberg will be minimal – climate change, fed in part by Palmer’s mining enterprises, has reduced the number of icebergs.  In his own words, “One of the benefits of global warming is there hasn’t been as many icebergs in the North Atlantic these days” (Wall Street Journal, Feb 26).

Palmer has been very quick to let his social vision of Titanic II out of the advertising bag.  At a press conference last July, Palmer admitted that there would “be some sort of screening (process)” for applicants (Herald Sun, Jul 27, 2012).  For one thing, he has it in for those pensioners.  Access to the casino would be restricted to first class passengers – after all, they can afford it, and Palmer is one of those responsible ones who doesn’t want people to fritter away what they don’t have.  But if you are a third classer, you might “share a bathroom, sit down at a long table for dinner every night, have some Irish stew and a jig in the night.”

Such concerns on the tycoon’s part will also come with a few tweaks to the original design, if only to cope with modern health and safety requirements.  There will be a “safety deck” and “proper life boats”.  The ship will be a metre wide for reasons of “stability”. “New escape stairs, service elevators, air conditioning room and similar functions have also been added.”  Markku Kanerva, director of sales for the marine design company Deltamarin, has courted fate, insisting that “from a safety perspective”, Titanic II will be peerless (Daily Mail, Feb 28).

With all of this fuss, it is appropriate to consult Joseph Conrad, who considered the calamity of this rich person’s sinkable toy box.  The monsters that were taking to the sea in the form of ocean liners were not servants of “progress in any sense.”  In his essay “Some reflections, Seaman-like and otherwise, on the loss of the Titanic” (1912) Conrad could only see the rich prostrate before Mammon, at a loss as to where to spend their wealth.  Two thousand rich but confused individuals aboard a 45,000 ton “hotel of thin steel plates to secure [their] patronage”, “a perfect exhibition of the modern blind trust in mere material and appliances.”

Pat Lacey, the great-great niece of the captain of the Titanic Cmdr Edward John Smith, has found the entire venture to build Titanic II in poor taste and pointless.  Helen Benziger, great grand daughter of survivor Margaret “Molly” Brown, suggests otherwise.  None of that matters – the very fact that the original was in poor taste suggests that every remake of the ship, on screen or off, will be distasteful.  The Titanic is the graveyard of egomania.  There is no need to dip into a bit of Sigmund Freud to realise that technological terrors are not something people ever want to abandon.  That is the difference between mourning and melancholia.

Even after Titanic II is built, Palmer will have to convince customers to get on, or rather, the types of customers he wants.  True, actor Billy Zane is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but even he was nervous at the prospect of another ship being built in honour of the long sunk liner.  “I’m sure I’ll get an invitation though.  Although it’s funny, I can’t get a charter to save my life – I don’t know if people really want me on board.”  How droll Mr Zane.

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
Ron Jacobs
Exacerbate the Split in the Ruling Class
Jill Stein
After US Airstrikes Kill 73 in Syria, It’s Time to End Military Assaults that Breed Terrorism
Jack Rasmus
Trump, Trade and Working Class Discontent
John Feffer
Could a Military Coup Happen Here?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Late Night, Wine-Soaked Thoughts on Trump’s Jeremiad
Andrew Levine
Vice Presidents: What Are They Good For?
Michael Lukas
Law, Order, and the Disciplining of Black Bodies at the Republican National Convention
David Swanson
Top 10 Reasons Why It’s Just Fine for U.S. to Blow Up Children
Victor Grossman
Horror News, This Time From Munich
Margaret Kimberley
Gavin Long’s Last Words
Mark Weisbrot
Confidence and the Degradation of Brazil
Brian Cloughley
Boris Johnson: Britain’s Lying Buffoon
Lawrence Reichard
A Global Crossroad
Kevin Schwartz
Beyond 28 Pages: Saudi Arabia and the West
Charles Pierson
The Courage of Kalyn Chapman James
Michael Brenner
Terrorism Redux
Bruce Lerro
Being Inconvenienced While Minding My Own Business: Liberals and the Social Contract Theory of Violence
Mark Dunbar
The Politics of Jeremy Corbyn
Binoy Kampmark
Laura Ingraham and Trumpism
Uri Avnery
The Great Rift
Nicholas Buccola
What’s the Matter with What Ted Said?
Aidan O'Brien
Thank Allah for Western Democracy, Despondency and Defeat
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail