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history and heritage |
Saturday June 02, 2012 17:58 by jason mcateer
lets celebrate product failure
a rant about the titanic frenzy in northern ireland featuring a critisism of "heritage" and slightly covert sectarianism
I am sick of hearing about The Titanic, sick sore and tired, in fact. Let us for once tell the truth and admit that as usual we did a half arsed job, and as a result many people lost their lives. Its quite a death toll too, about 50% of the 9/11 attack in New York for example. Do you think that in years to come Russia and Ukraine will observe Chernobyl anniversaries with similar tastelessness? I doubt it, presumably they have some pride in their engineering skills and a modicum of propriety. Can you imagine them saying "For years people have heard the bad news story of Chernobyl but now its time to celebrate the good news; that it put us on the map". Not likely.
A people more honest than ourselves or perhaps those possessed of a titter of wit would have learned the lesson and moved on from this disaster, quietly and with dignity. Not us, eager as always to poke reason in the eye, we have tried to define ourselves by this improvised submarine. Lord help us, we're just not that bright!
We are far too proud of this over sized boat which took 1517 people to a watery grave. The least we can do is to have the courage of our convictions and rename our state(let) "Product Failure". By "we", I mean, of course, a largely mysteriously appointed and self satisfied group of people who choose to bray on our behalf. For years they have chosen to bray about this god forsaken boat, fast becoming a rust stain. What next? Will the Braying Ombudsman reject a complaint that a whipped mule could do better and insist that this is world class braying, and offers outstanding value for money in today's competitive marketplace. He might also go on to say that there was no evidence of collusion between sensible design principles and this vessel and that only a few bad apples among the rivets failed.
Think of the advantages of the proposed name change: Product Failure would communicate in advance our performance in job creation, rational thinking and just getting along with each other. For those of a Unionist disposition I think “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Product Failure“ has quite a ring to it.
Lets take a moment to look at the Tourism and Heritage argument. Heritage has been described as an attempt to project a version of the present onto the past, this has never been truer than in the case of the Titanic. What proportion of the Titanic craze deals with sectarianism and fair employment? Time Magazine reported that in the late 1960s only 400 of the 10000 employees at Harland and Wolfe were Catholic. By failing to adequately address this, the Titanic story attempts to whitewash and justify sectarianism, under the cloak of tourism. The enthusiasm that senior Unionist politicians display for costly Titanic related projects is at best unseemly. The tourists will visit these projects, as part of a visit to the area, more as a result of the low exchange rate of the pound sterling than an actual interest in the Titanic story. For those people across the world, with a specific interest in this ship, there are competing sites and museums to visit including Halifax Nova Scotia and Southampton. The idea that the place where a ship was built is more important than the place where it sailed from, or the place where the majority of the crew were from, or the port nearest to where it sank, is just a parochial conceit. Regardless of the success or otherwise of these projects, no doubt a team of consultants will demonstrate best value or ongoing viability or whatever the buzz phrase is, at that moment.
The Titanic dirge that we have all had inflicted on us over the last while seemed to start with more than three hours of tedium by James Cameron in 1997. This is a movie, that, although it would not have been historically accurate, would have benefited from a salvo of Exocet anti ship missiles at around the 90 minute mark. The hype has long since faded and the film is now best remembered for preventing the superior L.A. confidential from winning the Oscar. We can but wonder how many politicians and senior civil servants shed a tear as poor old Leo slipped beneath the waves and deep in their minds an obsession took hold. Obviously the words “deep” and “mind” have been used in a relative sense. We could all have been saved a lot of money and embarrassment, if they had instead put their hand in their pocket and bought a scale model of their doomed icon.
If you find it a bit depressing that R.M.S. Ocean Floor didn't make it to its destination, you can rest easy. No doubt a high powered team of consultants will release a report saying that it made it to New York after all and Product Failure plc is open for business in state of the art facilities. Don't dare be a nitpicker and point out that the team of consultants quite recently held directorships in companies working in the field of braying. Complete independence is assured. If there are any doubts we can after all, bring it to the attention of the Northern Ireland Nodding Office.
Have you heard Belfast referred to as "Titanic Town"? I think this is apt. Belfast is Titanic town. After all, when it hits a difficulty it tends to split into two halves and sink like a stone with considerable loss of life. “It was alright when it left here” has been trotted out a few too many times. The obvious riposte is “No, it was far from alright and the place it left from wasn’t up to much either.”