Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Men and Women

"Women and children first"

It doesn't make sense to berate the captain of the Costa Concodria to be one of the first on the beach in an egalitarian age that decries the notion of hierarchy, difference, and duty. Taking off from Mark Steyn,  The Sage of Mt. Airy emphasizes that point, taking off on "women and children first:"

What [Steyn] leaves out is that it's become instead, and sadly so, an increasingly accurate descriptive phrase that captures perfectly a class of people who do go first, whether they should or not. (If, that is, it's even possible to use words like should or ought in a properly multicultural society.) "Women and children" is now descriptive of, well, descriptive of almost everyone, male and female, young and old, able and infirm, etc.. We're all equal after all and that's exactly as it should be. (Here's one place where should is not only allowed, but demanded.)

Steyn on the origins of "women and children first:"

In fact, "women and children first" can be dated very precisely. On Feb. 26, 1852, HMS Birkenhead was wrecked off the coast of Cape Town while transporting British troops to South Africa. There were, as on the Titanic, insufficient lifeboats. The women and children were escorted to the ship's cutter. The men mustered on deck. They were ordered not to dive in the water lest they risk endangering the ladies and their young charges by swamping the boats. So they stood stiffly at their posts as the ship disappeared beneath the waves. As Kipling wrote:

We're most of us liars, we're 'arf of us thieves, an' the rest of us rank as can be, But once in a while we can finish in style (which I 'ope it won't 'appen to me).

Categories > Men and Women

Discussions - 7 Comments

1st of all it is an admiralty law case!

2nd of all it is Carnival cruises so all litigation should end up in a Florida District court (or at least this is typical of the form contract they use).

3rd of all the honorable Judge Learned Hand set forward a test in Carrol Towing (which was also admiralty) which essentially found owners liable when they failed to take safety precautions, where the cost of such precautions was less than the potential liability times the risk of loss.

So the Concordia had sufficient life boats, and this equipment is even considered part of the non-delegable duty of the shipowner in providing a seaworthy vessel.

It is interesting that the ship name was intended to express the wish for amicability and unity between the European Nations, and that the ship took on water right off the coast of Italy.

The bottle of Champagne(Geographic indicator, Champagne France, failed to break during the christening...which means this is all the fault of the French!)

If you think about it, the wealthy english(think Lloyds of London) and the americans(think Astor and his heirs) who owned considerable capital and thus were concerned first and foremost with "risk", decided that going down with the ship was an expensive proposition on a good will front. Sure Astor went from being a jackass to a noble man, but if the truth is closer to Kipling to begin with, why bother with a noble bluff. With proding from courts and underwritters and enough money to 'ope it won't appen to me', they decided that luxury ships might not need more than 2, 5 star dinning establishments, 4 pools and a cigar bar, if it meant skimping on the lifeboats.

In addition given the overwhelming logic of insurance in shaping admiralty law, couldn't you argue(regardless of if, some do) that the rich are the most "productive" (largely on account of the Capital doing all the work), and that therefore the most valuable to society, and should disembark first?

Or rather if you are a bourgeois Marxist/Burkean might you not say that age of chivalry had to die, becaused it was based on a fiefdom property/power structure? That is these normative "should's" are really duties imposed by the legal structure (of property).

The Brittish Troops stood at attention as the ship went down, because they were soilders by trade and received a lawful order.

The knights owed certain duties to those who had given them fiefdoms. These duties were "should's". On a strict positive account there is no should or morality appart from the law that applies, but each man being a free agent can as a rebelious function of autonomy impose upon himself a moral code that goes beyond "mere" legalism.(as long as while he does so he doesn't underbid the law, or at least not by much.)

On the other hand, a person trying to play the chivalrous part and wait to the last minute when the legal structure of capital has afforded life boats, is almost certainly an irritation to those who have a duty to see him off the ship safely. If he dies of needless heroics, by disregarding crew instructions, I would be tempted to contact the insurance agency, and dispute the rather large settlement his heirs could receive otherwise. I would assume however that this is hypothetical, crew instructions would serve mostly to provide order, and as a motivation to get on a lifeboat would be as redundant as pushing on a string.

But the main point is simply to provide an alternate account. We are all equal largely by virtue of american law, which generally doesn't impose duties (or oughts) upon "civilians" (except these would be suprised if they read contracts closely). i.e there is no duty to save, because even getting on a lifeboat ahead of a woman or child would at most be nonfeasance, and unless in disregard of the orders of the crew (who are mainly about keeping families intact, and insureing everyone remains calm) would certainly not reach to the level of malfeance. The French legal structure may be slightly different, in that it is civil law as opposed to common, but also because French Law in most areas did not evolve or develop this malfeance/nonfeasance distinction.

Then again bear in mind that this is admiralty law, and is itself almost as peculiar as international law and similar to it in many ways.

If we do live in a multicultural society, we do so in part because of federalism, and in part because of globalism. In part because we have subsidiaries of american companies operating in Italy, involving the dutch(in salvage), and a host of foreign civilians who might be suprised when they end up in Florida to litigate against Carnival Cruise lines.

That is you can't say much about should or oughts given multiculturalism on a legal positivist account in part because the law which structures the should or oughts gets unbearably complex and differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

I can't even tell you if we are all equal, I doubt this in part because even formalistically wealth(capital) triumphs. i.e., Romney wins(even if he loses SC), the Sacketts lose. At best the Common Law itself is a majority rule, and may not hold true as an ought or a should in all jurisdictions. If we are all equal it is mainly due to the prominance of equal protection claims, and these stand out over federalism because the 14th is enforceable against the states, thus limiting the scope of multiculturalism/federalism.

In terms of race we are equal subject to strict scrutiny, in terms of sex we are equal subject to intermediate scrutiny...In part because it is constitutional law it is true that we can say a lot more about equality as a should that we have in common. The 14th ammendment has partially taken this away from the realm of multiculturalism/federalism.

But more seriously can you prove that multiculturalism is not the product of federalism, or general experimentation with should and ought structures? (often times due to insurance considerations, as seems to largely be the case in admiralty law).

It seems relevant that fewer women and children ended up casulaties(compared to the Titanic) , that entire salvage operations began immediately to prevent ecological disaster from fuel leaks. Also to speak of an egalitarian age is to presupose a common law or an "age" or an "america" or "amerika" about which one can talk about, you are right that apart from "equality", very little is common law...but you are horribly wrong in applying cultural common law to admiralty law. Admiralty law is chock full of hierarchy, difference, and duty, and a lot of this is structured by insurance. The duties of the Captain of the Costa Concordia are structured by the international law, maritime law, and such requirements as the insurance company imposes upon the ship owner (Ship owners, or those who own a ship by bareboat charter have to have 2 forms of insurance. 1) is hull insurance, 2) the other is pilotage insurance.)

So Pilotage insurance is relevant to the duties of the pilot/captain. The insurance company will then defend the Pilot, and be held liable for any of multiple breaches of duty that he may have commited. It may make sense, lacking facts to hold off on berating the Pilot, but to say that the Pilot did not have "duties" is absurd.

An interesting point however is that a Pilot/Captain is a highly paid and very responsible person. He is paid so much in part because disasters like this one and Exxon Valdez are so damning. I generally think these guys are underpaid, but the real issue is that the entire justification for paying them so much is "competance". When they do wreck a ship, while somewhat wealthy, they are more or less judgement proof(given the scope of dammages) and indemnified by insurance.

400k+ a year must be nice, on the other hand I suppose they do get hounded by the media if they screw up(or if it appears that they did).

I think you can thank the Femi-Nazis for this new found thinking.... They want to be equal in everything so this will include who gets off the sinking ship first.

I thought two things when I read the story of the Concordia.

1. In a world wherein no one wants to grow up, those men were not men, but aging boys.

2. When there is no eternal judge and no expectation of judgement or life after death, then everything is now and all is about the self. No fear of Hell and no hope of Heaven -- you have to live.

There are no femi-nazis. There are female legal scholars, who happen to believe that the law was written by rich white men, and reflected the concerns and social structure of the time. They tend to be serious people and make good cases. While hypothetically it might be possible to offend someone by holding open a door, I am pretty sure this is a fictional/theoretical account. Some of these professors will also hold doors open for me, and frankly I don't mind it. It is like wishing jews Merry Christmas, they don't get offended. They wish you Merry Christmas. The general attitude is, jeez, someone just said something nice to me, maybe I should say something nice back. The same goes for Happy Holidays or Happy Hannukah.

This wreck was almost certainly the result of small mistakes compounding quickly. The Captain took a detour from his authorized route(private law), to uphold tradition and "salute" a former captain. He was mostly in deep water but part of the boat ran up on a sand bank he didn't expect.

Salvage or Towage is very expensive, so he tried "self-help" to remmedy the situation, but when he fired the engine he made a small breach in the hull. At this point he probably contacted the cruise line/owners of the boat. Because the engineering is quite advanced a small enough leak can be remmedied, you just have to have enough power to pump ballast water out of the ship, or move it around to remain stable. So by all accounts the ship stayed perfectly upright most of the time. It is when the power failed that all hell broke loose.

The Captain abandoned the ship prematurely, because he knew it was listing, and he knew that part of the ship was in deep water. But he was still on the boat when only 300 people remained. Just in terms of how this was structured he was probably most worried about legal liability. While a lot was realeased/leaked on youtube, it is hard to know exactly who all the captain was in contact or how many of his decisions were his own judgment calls.

The ship captain and officers, except for lower ranking ones were not seen, because possibly they were busy altering legal documents, or otherwise covering the paper trail. They were probably actually continuously in contact with tons of "interested parties".

It does seem that there were a lot of brave young officers and crew which worked hard to make the evacuation work for the best. A few good citizens as well.

But I think this shows the mask of command so to speak. The idea that the Captain goes down with the ship (important so that it is not considered abandoned) is actually a sort of relic. Admiralty law is old, and parts of it date back to the romans. It is basically the law of great maritime powers, so it is incredibly English/Llyods of Londonish.

I think maybe the anti-war crowd could get behind a rule that said that if the U.S. declares war, the president as commander in chief has to deploy to the front lines. But as an event to be read into I think it basically affirms Keegan's "Mask of Command". The big question: Who is liable, with how much skin in the game?

There will always be passenger complaints, in fact there are already several pending suits in Florida!

Kate - While that was an enlightening look into the way that you read news stories, I have to wonder where you come up with stuff like that. What do you know about this ship captain's religious beliefs (or lack thereof), or what was going through his mind? You seem to be unhesitatingly jumping to conclusions at least as great as the captain's reported/claimed "trip" into a lifeboat.

Also, when George W. Bush (who got your vote for POTUS twice, if I recall correctly) checked the box on his Air National Guard enlistment form that said he did NOT wish to serve overseas - something which would have been necessary for him to fight in the war in Vietnam which he openly supported - was that him acting as a man or an aging boy?

John Lewis - I don't always have the patience to read your (typically long-ish) comments completely, but I must say that, imho, they've improved over the last couple years - more fair, more coherent, more reasonable, even when I don't agree. Loved the first 3 sentences of your last comment, though.

And no one up here has the patience to read your long, factless-based comments with truck loads of links to liberal brain-dead website.

You are not special.

I suppose my comment should have more correctly begun, "... two things that I thought that I haven't read elsewhere, yet..." and as John Lewis points out, as we know more, our understanding of what happened changes. When I read about the Concordia, that was what I thought. Most of those accounts were variations on the, "On the Costa Concordia, in the words of a female passenger, 'There were big men, crew members, pushing their way past us to get into the lifeboat.'” theme. Hence, my response was what t was.

About George Bush and my comment (not a juxtaposition I was expecting) -- I don't know why he joined the National Guard. Off the top of my head, I would point that he didn't exactly consider himself a God-fearing man when he was that age. He has suggested quite otherwise in biographical accounts. Also off the top, I remember friends who joined the National Guard during the Vietnam War. They had their reasons. One said he simply couldn't imagine shooting another person, which meant he would be useless in battle. That's a different kind of courage, though; battle courage and rescue courage are different, but each is courage. My dad's vision was poor and, in WWII, he couldn't get in the Army. He served in the American Field Service with many conscientious objectors. They drove into back end of battles to rescue the wounded. They rescued people in dangerous situations, saving lives. I think it took courage. It is not warrior courage, but it is still risk-your-life courage.

Wasn't cowgirl responding to the Steyn piece, about the idea that we are all equal and how that kind of "equality" he's writing about has logical consequences? Those feminists who insist that we women are the same as men forego the protection of men and logically, would have ALL of us women forego the protection of men. From the Steyn piece,

"I receive a lot of mail from men along the lines of this correspondent: “The feminists wanted a gender-neutral society. Now they’ve got it. So what are you complaining about?”

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL: