Concordia disaster: Should a captain go down with his ship?

In the Telegraph Dalrymple addresses the apparent cowardice of Captain Francesco Schettino:
Courage is a virtue and heroism is admirable, but do we have a right to demand them? Which of us cannot look back on his or her own life and remember decisions, or compromises made, or silences kept because of cowardice, even when the penalties for courage were negligible?
If we are cowardly in small things, shall we be brave in large? Have we the right to point the finger until we have been tested ourselves? When we read of the seemingly lamentable conduct of the captain of the Costa Concordia, Francesco Schettino, who left his passengers to their fate, do we say, “There but for the grace of God go I”?
Of course, leadership entails an obligation to be courageous – morally, physically or both. It is the price of leadership; it is why leaders are more highly regarded and rewarded than the rest of us. But even subordinates in certain professions have the duty to be brave, as the rest of us do not. A soldier is expected unquestioningly to put himself in the way of bullets as a civilian is not.
There follow a couple of colorful stories of bravery from Dalrymple’s medical career, and a nuanced conclusion.

28 thoughts on “Concordia disaster: Should a captain go down with his ship?

  1. Dee

    Yes we have every right to point a finger without being tested ourselves. He CHOSE that profession and should accept responsibility for ALL that goes with it. I just wish someone would have done a complete psychological workup on that Chicken of the Sea before they turned over a ship with 4000 people to him for safekeeping.

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  2. Patricia

    The point missed by Theodore Dalrymple is the resulting loss of respect & faith in those in authority which result from cowardice, real or perceived, such as that displayed by the captain of this ship. We need to have trust in those in charge such as police at an accident, doctors in a hospital or leaders of any situation, whether temporary or permanent, or chaos and self interest will put us all at risk. We cannot function properly in a society where we don’t trust those in charge to act in our best interests.
    I find it interesting that in his many books on his patients in a prison hospital he complains that they fail to take personal responsibility for their actions yet he defends a ship’s captain who, it would appear, is failing to take personal responsibility for his actions. Curious.

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  3. Clinton

    I didn’t interpret it as a defense of the captain. He simply said his error was fear and weakness, not malice.

    “I hope it is not taken for lack of sympathy for the victims and their relations to say that, on the scale of human monstrosity, the captain does not climb very high. His place on the scale of human weakness is another matter.”

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  4. Louise

    It seems that the msn has been tried and convicted (in the courts of the media and ‘public opinion’) before he’s been…well, tried and convicted.

    It’s an ugly spectacle.

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  5. Clinton

    So you agree with Dalrymple, at least partially. So maybe he isn’t such a horrible, lying, uncompassionate man after all, eh?

    BTW, still waiting for your explanation of how he has fabricated his account of his entire medical career.

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  6. Jackson K. Eskew

    What’s baffled me about this affair is the widespread EXPECTATION of chivalry and heroic courage. This is baffling because chivalry and its heroism are ARISTOCRATIC virtues, not democratic virtues. Yet we still expect the practice of such aristocratic virtues in this most democratic of ages, in which the supreme virtue is militant mediocrity.

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  7. Louise

    ‘BTW, still waiting for your explanation of how he has fabricated his account of his entire medical career.’

    Well, you’ll be waiting a long time because that not an assertion I have made.

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  8. Louise

    I’m sure a cursory glance at recent history will disprove this statement.

    So, citizens of countries without an aristocracy never exhibit ‘chivalry’?

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  9. Colin

    > So, citizens of countries without an aristocracy never exhibit ‘chivalry’?

    Louise, that’s not what Jackson said.

    I have to say that your contributions are increasingly tedious. All you ever seem to do is pick pedantic flaws with what other people write. I’m sure there’s more to you than that but it’s all you seem to show on this blog.

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  10. Jackson K. Eskew

    Not in my view. Chivalry is dead, as indicated by your feeling compelled to place the word in ironic quotes.

    Chivalry is an aristocratic, not a democratic, virtue. To the extent that we see chivalric heroism practiced in democratic regimes, to that extent has the accumulated capital of aristocratic regimes not yet been spent. With the ever advancing march of democracy and its associated militant mediocrity, disorder, and inversion of the hierarchy of reality, this accumulated capital is near exhaustion.

    All of this is “in my opinion,” of course.

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  11. Clinton

    Good point, Jackson. When bravery is EXPECTED, it ceases to be special.

    I have to say that I do think the captain’s behavior was atrocious, however. Perhaps courage isn’t to be expected of everyone, but it should be expected of the captain of a ship containing 4,000 passengers.

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  12. Clinton

    Then what did you mean by this:

    “The account you provided of Dalrymple’s day to day career is demonstrably false.

    “A couple of questions: 1. Have you fact checked any of this yourself?
    2. How many trips have you made to Birmingham, England?”

    ….or this:

    ” Something you should be made aware of: I grew up in Birmingham and my mother is a recently retired psychiatric nurse. Many of his assertions are, according to her and some of her colleagues, quite simply factually untrue.”

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  13. Louise

    I was unaware that placing a quote in quotation marks always indicates irony.

    I live in a part of the country that has quite a few air bases. I see chivalry every day in the troops heading off to war.

    It seems absurd to use a single, anomalous event as a reason to condemn ‘democratic societies’.

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  14. Louise

    Re read what you initially wrote

    BTW, still waiting for your explanation of how he has fabricated his account of his ‘entire medical career.’

    Try conducting a search on my site.

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  15. Clinton

    I am surprised at your lack of self-awareness, Louise. You continually nitpick and argue over the most minute details of others’ comments. It is extremely obvious.

    Nevertheless, we are happy to have your comments here. We don’t expect or want all participants to agree with all of Dalrymple’s arguments. Disagreement makes for a more interesting conversation.

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  16. Jackson K. Eskew

    I agree with you, Clinton, that the captain’s behavior was atrocious. What I’m saying is that it’s precisely such atrocious behavior – NOT heroic behavior – that’s to be expected in an age when the lust for unbridled democracy has almost completed its sweeping away of the very code of honor that would have previously led a ship’s captain to sacrifice himself.

    Accordingly, as for Schettino himself, I don’t think he’ll experience any heavy sense of dishonor, as the aristocratic code of honor has been almost totally replaced by the democratic code of shamelessness. To the extent that shame is heaped upon him, this is the accumulated capital of aristocracy at work. And it’s nearly spent.

    Age, thou art shamed.*
    O shame, where is thy blush?**

    -Shakespeare, Julius Caesar,* Hamlet**

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  17. Jackson K. Eskew

    It wasn’t a situation that called for placing the word in quotes – unless to indicate irony.

    As for the troops you see heading off to war, I don’t see this as chivalric. I suppose we need here a precise definition of chivalry. I’m too lazy to give one at the moment.

    As for this the significance of this event, I think Schettino is quite symbolic of today’s democratic shamelessness. For instance, the captain of the American ship of state – Mr. Obama – is shamelessly leading his passengers to the rocks of shipwreck.

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  18. Colin

    > Do I know you?

    Could you explain why you asked that?

    > I’d be grateful for some examples.

    I’m afraid virtually everything I’ve read by you on this blog comprises nitpicking of other people’s comments while adding very little of your own. You effectively say “that’s not true” then run away.

    > And yes, I confess to being pedantic…about the truth.

    Fair enough, somebody has to be. I agree that Dalrymple sometimes speaks in broad strokes, but that is the nature of social comment. If every statement were awash with caveats we’d never get anywhere. In any case it is the broad truth which matters, not nitpicky details that could mislead as to the broad truth.

    For example, I think he overstates the extent of moral depravity in Britain when he likens it to Transylvania at nightfall… but the fact is that modern youth are intimidating and completely unpredictable, and I think that in many, many areas of the country, old people will do everything to avoid them. Nobody knows whether a particular group of teenagers is violent or not – there is no safety in assuming they are friendly.

    But what really irritates me is your constant, slightly veiled attacks on Dalrymple himself, namely his integrity. I don’t know what you hope to achieve by this. For example, you point out that he quotes his patients… so what? Do we know their names? Are they likely to read his work, published mainly under a pseudonym? Does he mock them or exaggerate their behaviour or statements? Is the intent behind his work to point at these people and sneer, or is he doing what little he can to alert our society to the social ills that it is promoting? Do you seriously see Dalrymple as a man who wishes harm upon good people?

    Furthermore, why does it bother you so much that Dalrymple has fans (or “disciples” as you call us)? Do you have a legitimate reason for this? It comes across as very childish.

    All in all, you do not paint a flattering picture of yourself, Louise.

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  19. Jackson K. Eskew

    Colin, it’ll shed some light on the situation to go to Louise’s website and take a look at this post:

    Retiring

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  20. Louise

    ‘All in all, you do not paint a flattering picture of yourself, Louise.’

    Having read some of your posts in the forum I could say the same about you.

    Are you really comfortable with the idea of mental patients being paraded on the pages of The Spectator for the amusement of its readers? You have no problem with this?

    We may as well reopen Bedlam.

    As these people snd the blogs linked what they think:

    http://notsobigsociety.wordpress.com/author/nursezarathustra/

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  21. Louise

    ‘Disagreement makes for a more interesting conversation.’

    Indeed. thesis + antithesis = synthesis. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.

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  22. Colin

    > ‘All in all, you do not paint a flattering picture of yourself, Louise.’
    > Having read some of your posts in the forum I could say the same about you.

    It’s probably my vanity, but I have to admit I’m curious as to which posts? Here’s an idea – you could join the forum and take part in those debates. Show me where I’m going wrong.

    > Are you really comfortable with the idea of mental patients being paraded on the pages of The Spectator for the amusement of its readers? You have no problem with this?

    Firstly, it’s not for amusement.

    Secondly, Dalrymple’s contention is that many of his supposedly mentally ill patients were NOT mentally ill, and these are the patients he focusses on in his writing. (For example, the car thief who wanted to blame his crimes on being “addicted”, etc.)

    You may have examples of him criticising people with genuine mental health problems… I am not aware of him doing this. One of the main thrusts in his writing is the medicalisation of morality, such that free agency is increasingly obscured, and genuine cases are lost amidst the fog and bureaucracy.

    As Jackson suggested, I’ve read a few posts on your blog and FWIW you seem perfectly lucid to me. There’s no reason why you should confine yourself to making snide comments on this blog (or indeed, your own) about Dalrymple. You’ve obviously got firm thoughts on the matter so why don’t you express them on the forum and engage in debate? Seriously, you might find it quite cathartic.

    But if all you want to do is cast doubt on Dalrymple’s integrity, it’s a bit pointless. It’d be like me going on the Richard Dawkins forum with a similar intent. And secondly, WHY do you want to cast doubt on Dalrymple? Why does it annoy you that he has “disciples” etc.? These seem to be questions you should be asking yourself. We all have journalists we resent or dislike; to go on a one-man (one-woman) crusade against them seems silly.

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  23. Louise

    ‘As for the troops you see heading off to war, I don’t see this as chivalric. I suppose we need here a precise definition of chivalry. I’m too lazy to give one at the moment.’

    I have to say that this utterly perplexes me. Perhaps you feel like this because you are not capable of these things yourself so you assume that no one else is. And that, if anything, is a very modern malaise.

    By the by, we were a democracy (suspended) in WW2. What are your views on the combatants in that conflict.

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  24. Louise

    It’s called ‘considering the source’.

    And I don’t see the good doctor as a ‘journalist’.
    If you’re planning a raiding party on Dawkins then let me know and I’ll join you. I don’t see him as a journalist either.

    Journalists have ethics that demand that they at least make an attempt at truth/accuracy.

    As the good people across the pond say ‘Laters’.

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