I'm reading, in the aftermath of the Costa Concordia tragedy, the transcript of the conversation between the Port Authority and the cowardly Capt. Francesco Schettino. Coast Guard officials are forced to order the captain back to his ship to finish the evacuation of passengers and you can feel their frustration as they do this. Here's just a snippet:
Port authority: "You go on board. It is an order. You cannot make any other evaluations. You have declared abandoning ship. Now I’m in charge. You get on board. Is it clear?"
Port authority over captain: "Are you not listening to me.."
Schettino speaks over Port authority: "I’m going..."
Schettino: "Call me immediately when you get on board. Our rescue officer is there."
Schettino: "Where is your rescue officer?"
Port authority: "My rescue officer is at the stem…Go …(can hear captain saying OK)…There are already bodies, Schettino."
Schettino: "How many dead bodies are there?"
Port authority: "I don’t know. I know of one. I’ve heard of one. You are the one to tell me how many there are. Christ!"
Schettino: "Are you aware that it is dark here and we cannot see anything?"
Port authority: "So? Do you want to go home Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Climb the ladder and get on the stem."
Port authority: "...and tell me what can be done, how many people are there, what do they need. Now."
Schettino: "Commandant, we are with the second in command…"
Port authority: "Then both of you climb up. What is his name?"
Schettino: "Dimitris Christidis."
Port authority: "You are your guard. Go on board, now!"
Schettino: "Commandant… I want to go on board, it is just that the other lifeboat here…there are other rescue operators... it has stopped and it is stuck there... now I’ve called other rescue operators..."
Port authority: "It is one hour that you are telling me this. You go on board. On b.o.a.r.d (says the word slowly almost spelling it out). And you immediately tell me how many people there are"
Now, here's my question: Why not abandon ship? Why not "every man for himself"? What should the culture say about this act? And why?
This cruise disaster is horrible enough in isolation but I wonder if it doesn't say something more about how we teach virtue and our basis for teaching morality.