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The Ship Explained

Entry 1793, on 2016-05-27 at 09:19:09 (Rating 3, Comments)

My previous blog post involving the ship metaphor initiated some discussion regarding its possible meaning. The most common theory was that the ship symbolised a workplace, generally the workpace of the person advancing the explanation. A couple of people even asked if it was a way for me to say I was leaving my current job, and one person sounded disappointed when I said that wasn't the case!

One of the cool things about allegorical stories is that people can see in them what they want. And that is also one of the great dangers of this form of communication because what people see is often not what the original author intended. We see this a lot in religious texts for example, and it explains why contradictory conclusions are often drawn from the Bible.

Well OK, what was the meaning of the extended metaphor then? Well it was all aimed a little bit beyond just an individual institution, company, or other organisation. The ship symbolised our civilisation as a whole, and especially capitalism in its current form.

At this point I apologise to anyone who found this obvious from the beginning (I thought it was when I wrote it) and who thinks an explanation is a suggestion that they are a bit dim-witted, but as I said above, no one seemed to quite get it!

So the ship is the basic structure our civilisation is based on (mainly capitalism) and it has worked moderately will in the past, but as new challenges (automation, robotics, IT, etc) appear it becomes less useful and has to be continually fixed (bail-outs, incredibly complex tax laws, etc) so that it still works. That's what the patches and extra structures mean (feel free to go back and read the original post again at any stage!)

The luxurious quarters built by the ship's officers which threaten the stability of the ship are the excesses the rich enjoy in society today. And the people who keep things stable by moving dead weight but in turn weighing the ship down even further are the armies of bureaucrats which hinder progress in society.

The engineers being disposed of represent the workers who are always the first victims of the incompetence of the leaders and as the bureaucratic classes rise, the workers fall. The workers acceptance of this trend is a result of them beginning to believe the propaganda used against them.

The leaders believe the immediate problems are being solved but that is only a superficial assessment. Every short-term change makes the eventual long-term result more certain. As economies grow they create greater demand which looks good economically, but climate change gets worse, essential resources are consumed, and the quality of the natural world declines.

The crew who warn others about the problems ahead represent groups such as scientists who are concerned about climate change, environmentalists who see the environment declining, and economists and social scientists who predict eventual disaster. The crew working in difficult places represent scientists who have to do dangerous and complex work which generates results contradicting the superficial views held by many others.

The failure for the captain to act on warnings which cannot be made exact reflects the fact that scientific findings are never stated as absolutes but that represent honesty rather than uncertainty.

The lack of accommodation for the crew reflects the housing problems which occur in many countries, including New Zealand, and the US where there are more empty houses than homeless people.

The outsourcing of the job of running the engines and subsequent loss of performance is a commentary on how privatisation and outsourcing generally leads to worse services which are conveniently rationalised by changing the way success is defined.

The lack of fuel and destruction of material symbolises the way resources are becoming scarce and how the resources which remain are wasted. For example, oil is far more useful as a base material for making plastics etc, than as a fuel.

The expert panels considering the minor problems while far superior ships sail past represent the inability of current leaders to really think of anything that will make a genuine difference - even though there are obvious answers they refuse to see them.

So there's my explanation of the ship. It is rather obvious really and I never intended to write anything which was difficult to interpret. I was looking at the big picture but for anyone who thinks it represents their workplace I guess the same problems affecting the planet as a whole also happen at a smaller scale too.


Comment 1 (4494) by Anonymous on 2016-05-27 at 10:14:37: Yes I was disappointed!


Comment 2 (4495) by OJB on 2016-05-27 at 12:38:49:

Well if I left my current job I could spend more time writing blog posts so that's a big bonus, don't you think? :)


Comment 3 (5196) by Anonymous on 2020-01-08 at 22:18:28:

Gee thanks. I would have never figured it out without this. :)


Comment 4 (5198) by OJB on 2020-01-09 at 19:58:57:

I assume you are being sarcastic, and I agree the story didn't involve the most obscure metaphors. However, I did have one or two people ask me what I was talking about, so I guess an explanation was required.


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