Iceberg, straight ahead

100 years ago, the RMS Titanic sank in the north Atlantic, killing approximately 1500 people.

One century later, the sinking of the Titanic remains probably one of the most interesting things to happen in the history of the United States. Whenever the Titanic is brought up in any conversation, people immediately formulate images in their head of utter chaos, and people screaming, yelling and crying as they prepared to descend into ice-cold waters in the dead of night. It’s an unfathomable situation.

I’m going to gloss over the sheer embarrassment I have for today’s youth, given a recent Internet discovery revealing that scores of people actually did not know that the Titanic was real, and that it wasn’t just a movie. I… I… just can’t bring myself to even wrap my mind around this information to start formulating a judgment.

James Cameron’s movie obviously did help add to the Titanic’s lore, and gave more insight to a whole generation of people who didn’t know that much about the historic event.

I think it goes without saying, that regardless of how accurate a film claims to be, you should never actually use the film as your primary source of knowledge for a historical event. For example, you shouldn’t base all of your knowledge of World War II from Saving Private Ryan. You shouldn’t learn about the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor through Michael Bay’s monstrous Pearl Harbor movie. And you shouldn’t learn about business from the Devil Wears Prada.

These films serve as dramatic depictions of past events. You should definitely see them, but use them as a vehicle to immerse yourself in discovering the facts of the actual event itself. As a visual learner, I could attest that sometimes it does take a movie to ignite my interest in something. It’s fine, as long as you don’t actually try to win an argument about the Titanic by citing actions by Jack and Rose.

I’m no expert on the Titanic, but every now and then I’ll read some stuff about it, and something that always stuck out to me was the actions of Benjamin Guggenheim.

The name should sound familiar, he was an extremely wealthy businessman, and one of five sons of Meyer Guggenheim, the patriarch of the Guggenheim family. His brother, Solomon Guggenheim, has a museum in New York City named after him.

Anyway, so Benjamin Guggenheim was rich as hell, and he died on the Titanic. He was one of the 1,514 who perished that night, but what stands out about him is how he died. According to newspaper reports, he was quoted, amid the chaos of the boat sinking, as saying this:

 “We’ve dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen.” He also gave a survivor a message saying, “Tell my wife, if it should happen that my secretary and I both go down, tell her I played the game out straight to the end. No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward.”

Forget anything I’ve ever said, or done, or claimed to have said, or done, and let me say this: Benjamin Guggenheim had swag. Benjamin Guggenheim had so much swag that I want to kill myself because I know I will never have as much swag as him.

I truly cannot think of a more courageous way to die. So many people probably conducted such immoral  and selfish acts that night in their efforts to save themselves. People probably fought over getting the last seat in a boat, and men probably pushed women and small children out of their way as they tried to escape. And yet, Benjamin Guggenheim did not.

It makes me think of what I would do in that situation. Let’s face it — in today’s age, men don’t act the way Guggenheim did. Chivalry is dead and there are no more gentlemen left. I think the last one died in the 90s. They’re extinct.

The million dollar question is: “how far would you go to save your own life?” While I like to think of myself as a fairly selfless person, I wonder if I would be able to maintain my scruples in a situation of life or death. Nobody wants to die, obviously, and it’s human nature to survive. However, if you are put in a scenario where you could either live and be indecent, or die and possibly save another life, what would you do?

Can you live the rest of your life knowing that you were a coward? I don’t know if I could. And that’s why I could not have more respect for Benjamin Guggenheim. You didn’t die in vain, man. I know what you did… I know.

Of course, in the 100-year anniversary, Hollywood has re-released Titanic in 3D in contrived attempt to manufacture more money. It worked, as the film grossed $25 million in one week. Newsflash people, the boat still hits the goddamn iceberg.

After 100 years, it’ll be interesting to see how, or if, the Titanic will continue to be memorialized. Typically, 100 years is when people tend to forget about things. Honestly, I feel like in a few years, people will stop acknowledging World War I altogether.

But I hope the allure surrounding the Titanic never fades, because it’s such an interesting topic. But in the digital/smartphone/Facebook/Twitter age that we live in now, where people only care about Lady GaGa and Justin Bieber, I think the odds are that people will soon forget about that big ol’ ship that now resides at the depths of the ocean floor.

Oh well, Titanic, you had a good run. But the curtain has dropped. The door has shut. The ship has sunk.

Pun could not be more intended.

2 thoughts on “Iceberg, straight ahead

  1. I’m pretty pleased to count myself as someone who has never and will never watch that goddamn movie. I was in the 7th grade at the time, and wondered why the hell I’d sit in a three hour movie where the boat sinks. Sigh. It’s seriously depressing that that movie is getting a re-release on the anniversary, and few of this generation will actually sit down to watch documentaries commemorating the event. I’ve heard so much about Titantic over my life time that it’s become a bit wearing, but it’s still such an important part of history that it would be an extreme act of disrepect to the ones that died to let it just go away.

    And I doubt there are no gentlemen left. My fiance is pretty damn awesome, and you don’t sound so bad yourself. =p

  2. Why thank ya. It’s nice to hear from you again.

    You’re right, chivalry may not be dead — but the social standards of how men are supposed to behave certainly have evolved in the past 50 years or so. But I’m sure you’re fiance’s is quite the gentlemen, and as for me… I’m still working on it.

    While I don’t think the Titanic will ever truly go away, it’s only inevitable that as time elapses, more people will forget. I suppose it’s up to our generation to teach our kids about it, among other things.

    Although, every few years, some new piece of information regarding the Titanic still pops up. Like a discovery of part of the ship underwater, or something. Who knows, maybe in five years divers will find the necklace that Jack gave to Rose.

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