Last week I saw our Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, speak about ‘the tip of the iceberg’. I could not have come up with a more striking comparison for history repeating itself. And for this reason …
Most people, I guess, don’t know who Captain Edward Smith was …
Captain Smith was a noble man, highly regarded and knowledgeable. At least that was the impression with certain decision-makers. All the documents I have read show that impression to be relatively accurate.
Captain Smith was also “politically talented“. After all; there were other captains who were just as skilled, had as much experience, and could have commanded the position just as easily as Captain Smith. But Captain Smith, because of his other talents, managed to get an enviable commission. A position that could, and ultimately would, determine his entire legacy…
Captain Smith, despite his many talents, was only human. Het too, was a person who was under pressure to perform and achieve certain “targets”. Including a speed record. Because that was good marketing for the shipping company he worked for. Captain Smith did what he had always done, performing with the resources and knowledge at his disposal. The success he had enjoyed had been due to his approach. He got ‘the right men‘ into his crow’s nest and organized an excellent crew around him. I believe he, honestly, did his damnedest best to achieve all his goals and the goals of his masters. Or so he, his people and masters thought…
On April 10, 1912 Captain Smith set sail , with the “crème de la crème” of the social elite. After some hesitance, Captain Smith decided to increase speed. He had to break that record. Captain Smith was warned of potential dangers but relied on his knowledge and skills. After all, he had the best people, he thought, in his crow’s nest. If there was a danger his people would warn him in time and he would change course in time. After all, they had always done this and it always went well.
On the night of April 14-15 it was particularly dark. Clouds and fog caused a deterioration of visibility. And so it came to pass that the legacy of this noble, knowledgeable, and politically talented man ended with the sinking of the Titanic.
Radar (which is essentially data and the interpretation of data) was only invented 20 years later. Had Captain Smith had and used radar, 1,517 people would not have drowned on that dark cold night. Captain Smith, along with 1,517 passengers, drowned as a direct result of the sinking of the Titanic. The sinking was a ‘freak accident’ because the watertight bulkheads should have stopped the ship from sinking.
Indirectly the iceberg was the cause. Had the Titanic missed the iceberg of just hit the iceberg slightly differently, the sinking would probably not have happened. They hit the iceberg because they could not see it until it was too late.
And that is where the moral of this story lies for me; virologists and the like are noble and knowledgeable people. People who have been taught to believe only in what they can directly establish by trial and error (ie actually “see”). This is called “Causation”. Seeing – with your own eyes – is knowing. That is what they believe.
To put it in my perspective; I have invented a kind of radar and have been calling on various policy makers for a long time; I SEE AN ICEBERG, CHANGE COURSE!
Our Captain Rutte, who trusts the people in his crow’s nest (read; OMT / RIVM), indicates that he only trusts his crow’s nest. And those people only believe in what they can see. At least Captain Smith had the excuse that radar didn’t exist yet. What excuse will Captain Rutte have – if we hit the iceberg in week 44?
Seamanship (a legal term). Seamanship entails that you do everything possible – even if you have right of way – to avoid a collision. But Captain Rutte is only human and people make mistakes. Captain Smith had always “done it his way” and it had always gone well. Until a dark night …
Toujours deux fois
Nobody knows where he is going unless he knows where he came from. This is the challenge of history: learning to observe the past in order to better understand the present and try to anticipate the future. A task made possible because history repeats itself – at least twice if not more.
Ps. It will not surprise you, I think, that after this tragic event, the development of radar was accelerated and has since saved many lives. The basis for many technological inventions originated, ultimately, in a tragic event. A repeating dynamic that will benefit the next generation.