Published January 17, 2012
The thing that jumps out at you as you hear the story of the cruise ship disaster is the way the Captain jumped off the sinking ship before he had done his duty.
It used to go without saying that ship captains would readily sacrifice their own good for the good of their ship and her passengers. There was a noble pride in their work that was more important than how much they were paid for it.
And that pride used to be found with other professionals, as well, like teachers and nurses and plane pilots. But something got in the way of that pride. In our rush to place self interest above self sacrifice, it became diluted. So now we hear stories about captains jumping ship, nurses refusing to treat patients and teachers willing to go on strike.
Milton Friedman used to say that education in America began to decline when teachers became unionized in the 1960s. And that's one place where honor began to get squeezed out of professions. When professionals become unionized and see themselves as nothing more than units of labor, they diminish their own self worth, and the quality of their work declines. The individual pride they used to take in their work gets overtaken by the collective solidarity to union demands.
And that attitude has spread throughout the culture…now affecting one of the most honored traditions of the sea. Self sacrifice and honor used to be the hallmark of being ship's captain. But now, like in so many other professions, self sacrifice has been washed over by self interest.
And the world is the worse for it.