Day 57 - The Ocean is a Terrible Bastard

There is a show on Crave called Disasters at Sea. It's about large ships going down, taking with it the lives of its crew. Numbers of deaths vary, though all cases are considered tragedies. The format of the show is compelling. It begins with a reconstruction of events with first-hand testimonies interspersed. The second have of the show is dedicated to some form of investigation into why the tragedy took place. Reasons vary. Negligence, design flaws, bad luck and so forth. In several episodes it is made clear that many such tragedies can be avoided by diligent inspections and refusing to compromise on craft, maintenance and the quality of materials. Perhaps the most important element of this show is that it tells us, as we've been told over and over again by innumerable tragedies and unimaginable cumulative loss, that it is shameful (at best) and murderous (at worst) to make these compromises for the sake of maximizing profit. Why does this happen? Arguably, it is cynical to assume that large corporations simply do not care whether employees live or die. True in some cases, but not a sweeping explanation for death caused by negligence. A more likely scenario is that the "bottom line" increases risk-taking behaviors in the people responsible for showing growth. And they push and push and get away with this until they don't, and lives are lost. Money is lost as well (think of loss of equipment, service, and public relations), so one would think that maintenance and safety standards should be perfect for the sake of profit. But again and again, we see this willingness to take risks for short-term profit, even despite the benefits and simple justice and humanity of refusing to take those risks.


Disasters at Sea covers this theme very well, without obvious bias, without assigned guilt to the corporate overlords, and without the use of drama. Each episode is simply a documentary of a tragic event including the details of that event and a chronicle of the investigative events that followed. And a good job is done by the actors playing real life people involved in the events. It's a different brand of acting we see here. It's a group of actors (professional or amateur, it's difficult to know) simply doing a job, delivering short lines, doing their best to convey a version of events. This is a refreshing break from the blinding brilliance of cinema and mass audience television. Watching Disasters at Sea is like watching a show in the 1980s, when you watch something by accident when you only have a few channels.


How does the show achieve this in 2020? Is it like podcasts, where people now crave truth, subtle presentation, and full explanation over the barrage of fireworks inserted into our daily lives by the internet? Perhaps. In any case, watching Disasters at Sea is a refreshing exercise in sustaining basic human interest in the nature of tragedy, how it happens, and how it impacts the lives of other people in a society that thrives on the balance of profit, hard work, and maintaining humanist codes of performance that hold employees together as a team.  


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