The metaphor is so obvious that we hesitate to use it: watching a small tourist submarine, ironically named “Titan”, wander into the vicinity of the wreck of the Titanic, on an obscene observation trip, as if hoping to catch a glimpse of the remains of those who drowned there; then seeing it disappear, like the one it was going to observe ; watching the world’s media take an interest in the story, and talk about it ad nauseum; watching the most powerful armies and corporations stage a rescue operation that serves above all to advertise their own machines. All the failings of our times are brought together here: the fascination with the spectacle of death, the unlimited taste of the wealthiest for the most luxurious consumption and for thrills, the breakdown of a machine that has been asked too much of, the media’s passion for the lives of the rich, the profligate madness of the powerful who will do anything to save their loved ones, the use of anything, even the worst, to create sources of spectacle and profit. Like a new Titanic making the same fatal mistakes as the last. And some of them are already preparing to make films.

But there’s more, because there are at least two other Titans.

First of all, the refugee boats that are sinking in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, amid general indifference. And, to mention just one of them, not entirely unnoticed, on its way to Italy, pushed out to sea and forgotten when it started to sink; without one millionth of the resources being devoted to saving 750 children, women and men, as were devoted to trying to rescue five people. (Who was looking to hear banging in the hull of this miserable fishing boat, where it was known that hundreds of women and children had been locked up?). That said, so much of what our world is like, where the blindness of the powerful, the concentration of wealth and the neglect of the poorest have become the rule.

And finally, a fourth Titanic, so huge we can’t see it: our humanity. We are all, as on the Titanic, swept into the future without really choosing a destination, fascinated by our means, blinded by our power, oblivious to the dangers, oblivious to the miseries of the people in the hold. And, once again, slow to use the means at our disposal to save ourselves. The fate of the other three Titanics shows us that neither the richest nor the poorest have come out of this adventure alive.

We haven’t sunk yet. Not like the Titanic, not like the Titan, not like this anonymous fishing boat. But we’re not far from disaster. It’s a matter of two decades, which is nothing. We still have time to make what I call “the Great Turning”. We’re not doing it at all. We’re content to reassure today’s living with a few cosmetic measures that won’t prevent the world from becoming, in the very short term, an unbearable hell. We have to accept this. As with the other three Titanics, if we don’t act quickly and decisively, we’ll be the gravediggers, if not the killers, of our grandchildren.

Let’s not forget that the Titanic’s name was chosen in proud reference to the Titans, the generic name for the sons of Gaia and Ouranos, including Chronos, who was fought by the only one of his sons he had not devoured; Zeus, who finally defeated his father and drowned him and his uncles (except for Ocean, Themis, Prometheus and Epimetheus) in the river Tartarus. Zeus kept heaven for himself and gave the sea to one of his brothers, Poseidon, and the Underworld to the other, Hades. Once again, that says it all.

May this news item (whose likely tragic outcome I can only guess at the time of writing) serve as a lesson to us all. And if the outcome is not tragic, let’s use the same means as quickly as possible to save the human race.

Image: Scene from James Cameron’s film “Titanic” (1997). Photo credit: 20th Century Fox.