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Mark Steyn rises to the challenge from Abe Greenwald.
Abe Greenwald of Commentary magazine tweets:
“Is there any chance that Mark Steyn won’t use the Italian captain fleeing the sinking ship as the lead metaphor in a column on EU collapse?”
Oh, dear. You’ve got to get up early in the morning to beat me to civilizational-collapse metaphors. ….
… Abe Greenwald isn’t thinking big enough. The Costa Concordia isn’t merely a metaphor for EU collapse but – here it comes down the slipway – the fragility of civilization. Like every ship, the Concordia had its emergency procedures – the lifeboat drills that all crew and passengers are obliged to go through before sailing. As with the security theater at airports, the rituals give the illusion of security – and then, as the ship tips and the lights fail and the icy black water rushes in, we discover we’re on our own: from dancing and dining, showgirls and saunas, to the inky depths in a matter of moments.
Today the wealthiest nations in human history build cruise ships rather than battleships, vast floating palaces dedicated to the good life – to the proposition that, in the plump and complacent West, life itself is a cruise, sailing (as the Concordia’s name suggests) on a placid lake of peace and harmony. Since the economic downturn of 2008, the Titanic metaphor – of a Western world steaming for the iceberg but unable to correct course – has become a little overworked, the easiest cliché for any politician attempting to project urgency. But let’s assume they’re correct, and we’re heading full steam for the big ‘berg. When we hit, what’s the likelihood? That our response will be as ordered and civilized as those on the Titanic? Or that we will descend into the hell of the Concordia?
The contempt for “women and children first” is not a small loss. For soft cultures in good times, dispensing with social norms is easy. In hard times, you may have need of them.
David Warren picks on the design of these ships.
… As we approach the centenary of the Titanic disaster, we might observe that the laws of physics remain in force. I was struck, almost risibly, by a BBC sidebar headline, which asked, “How did this happen to a modern ship?” The answer would be: “Easily.”
The builders of these immense floating pleasure palaces declare they are safe because they are loaded with technical gizmos, helping us forget that their extraordinary size is the weakness. The weight of the thing is sufficient to rip any hull apart, when it hits anything immovable; and the oceans are full of things like that. The bigger the ship, the more delicately she must be handled, thanks to the destructive power of this weight; yet the less manoeuvrable she becomes.
Cruise ships are anyway not built as solidly as, say, the Titanic. When airliners took over the North Atlantic run, the fast tough passenger ships designed for its heavy seas went to the scrapyards, ultimately to be reincarnated as these holiday vessels. Cruise ships are built structurally lighter, for moderate speed and moderate seas; then loaded to ever larger economies of scale. They are resort hotels, posing as ships.
As a correspondent with some knowledge of shipbuilding explains, “They are eggshells without proper keels, and they have lots of little propulsion pods below that would each leave quite a hole if rubbed off.” Luck alone may explain why none has yet gone down, a little farther from shore, with losses on the scale of 9/11. …
Chinese peasant farmers launched a revolution with a secret document that hoped to end constant shortage of food. NPR has the story.
… There was no incentive to work hard — to go out to the fields early, to put in extra effort, Yen Jingchang says.
“Work hard, don’t work hard — everyone gets the same,” he says. “So people don’t want to work.”
In Xiaogang there was never enough food, and the farmers often had to go to other villages to beg. Their children were going hungry. They were desperate.
So, in the winter of 1978, after another terrible harvest, they came up with an idea: Rather than farm as a collective, each family would get to farm its own plot of land. If a family grew a lot of food, that family could keep some of the harvest.
This is an old idea, of course. But in communist China of 1978, it was so dangerous that the farmers had to gather in secret to discuss it. …
Hungarian entrepreneur blogs on why he will not start a business.
I could hire 12 people with €760 net salary, but I don’t. I’ll tell you why.
You could work for my service provider company in a nice office. It’s not telemarketing, it’s not a scam. You would do serious work that requires high skills, 8 hours a day, weekdays only. I would employ you legally, I would pay your taxes and social security. I could give such a job to a dozen people, but I will not, and here I’ll explain why.
I wouldn’t hire a woman.
The reason is very simple: women give birth to children. I don’t have the right to ask if she wanted to. If I had the right, and she answered, she could deliberately deceive me or she could change her mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problem with women giving birth to children. That’s how I was born and that’s how my child was born. I wouldn’t hire a woman because when she gets pregnant, she goes for 3 years maternity leave, during which I can’t fire her. If she wants two children, the vacation is 6 years long.
Of course, work has to be done, so I would have to hire somebody who works instead of her while she is whiling away her long holiday years. But not only couldn’t I fire her while she’s away, I couldn’t fire her when she comes back either. So I would have to fire the one who’s been working instead of her the whole time. When a woman comes back from maternity leave, I would be legally forced to increase her salary to the present level in her position. Also, I would be required to give out her normal vacation days, that she accumulated during her maternity leave. When she finally comes back to work, she would start with 2-4 months of fully paid vacation.
I wouldn’t hire people over 50 either. …