As I experience the full range of Titanic Museum Attraction, which for me includes the guests, the people, the human beings of our day, I cannot help myself. I return to the idea that we have much in common with all those humans who have lived before us on this fragile planet with its delicate ecosystems, atmosphere, and the oceans that we have barely even begun to explore.
One fact concerning the Titanic that we usually do not discuss or think about involves the beginnings of how our species has damaged the oceans. It appears that all the waste products, the sewage, was simply discharged from the Titanic—and other ships—into the sea. Today, most of us would cringe at the thought. I hope that we are becoming more aware. And yet, sadly, one part of what we have in common with humans of the Titanic’s era is this pesky tendency to pollute.
No, ships today do not discharge sewage into the oceans. Or at least they’re not supposed to. However, we are polluting the oceans in all sorts of ways. If I were to put a finger on what it is that defines us in every age, it would include this tendency not to care about how we are damaging the fragile ecosystems of our planet.
Or, perhaps we do care on one level. But then our eagerness to have what we feel we need surpasses whatever caring we have. Isn’t it interesting that our drive to reach beyond ourselves, to explore and to achieve new knowledge, technologies, and abilities often damages our planet? We are like eager, precocious and reckless children in our impatient, self-centered rush toward the exhilarating new frontiers that we discover in every era.
And of course, the Titanic is a symbol for that stretch, that rush forward. There it is, magnificent, a thing of breathtaking beauty, a new design that suggests the future and new, thrilling technology for its day.
Another part of this sense of the stretch forward includes the movers and shakers who were part of Titanic’s maiden voyage. Many of these wealthy men would gather in the First sClass smoking room, snipping off the ends of fat cigars before lighting and puffing them.
We should not ignore First Class women, many of whom were pushing back against the limitations placed upon them by expectations of the day. Women were put on pedestals and admired for their beauty. the implicit message of the day, however, was that women should allow the men to dominate the professions, politics, government.
Women could not even vote in 1912. Among the women on board were Margaret Tobin Brown and Helen Candee, just to name two, who were beginning to prod these men, secure in their manly kingdoms, their clubs of privilege. Margaret Brown, a.k.a. the Unsinkable Molly Brown, ran for the U.S. Senate—a woman candidate even before women had the right to vote. Helen Candee wrote what was for the time a scandalous book for its day: How Women May Earn a Living.
Certainly, the twentieth century began a significant revolution where women are concerned. It was in the Titanic era often referred to as Women’s Suffrage. Later it was simply the Women’s Movement.
But that is another of the human markers that define us. In every age, our attitudes and assumptions are shifting. We hope we are growing more mature, more perceptive, less conceited and selfish. Whatever strides we make come with great battles, upheavals. Perhaps they are growing pains.
The Titanic was, indeed, the floating palace Bruce Ismay and Lord Pirrie initially set out to build. but it was also a floating cross-section of evolving humanity. In this collection of humans from the poorest to the wealthiest, we see ourselves. Titanic is a snapshot of who we were then, which is not so different from who we are now: all our wrinkles, blemishes, and warts as well as the best of what we are striving to become. And that is a large part of why the Titanic continues to fascinate us today.