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Cruise ship captain- Sheepdog fail

Posted By Uncle Jimbo • [January 20, 2012]

Francesco Schettino is a name that will linger in ignominious shame with the stench of cowardice and failure all over it. He is the ex-captain of a cruise ship that he drove onto the rocks and the architect of the deaths of passengers he was duty bound to safeguard. That he deserves to be vilified would seem to be a non-controversial idea. But what fun would that be, and so we get pieces like this one in the Guardian.

Schettino will undoubtedly be vilified for his actions – but how many of us can say that we would not have done the same thing?

Well I wouldn't have and I think there are quite a few others here in our little community of sheepdogs who could say the same. The author, a psychologist, is willing to excuse Schettino from the responsibility he volunteered for.

Schettino's actions may seem spineless, but of course that is easy for us to say in the cold light of day.

Schettino's actions were spineless, and that is easy to say, regardless of the time of day. But let's get back to why the doc says should not vilify.

This is why training is so important. Individuals who regularly have to deal with danger need to be trained to cope with instincts of self-preservation. With training, we can learn to recognise and evaluate danger and develop coping strategies. Cruise liners are not supposed to sink so I expect that any training he did have was not one that captured the reality of the unfolding disaster last Friday.

WTF? Really? The idea that a cruise ship captain would not receive extensive training in what to do in the event of a crash is just stunningly, mind-numbingly dense. Is this guy really a PhD? Wow, talk about an academic completely disconnected from reality. What exactly does he think they train cruise ship captains to do, chat up blondes while drinking at the bar?

Given his chance again, I doubt Schettino would have done the same thing.

Well thankfully Schettino will not get another chance to do the same thing. And if they had another chance, I doubt the people he killed would do the same thing again by trusting him to captain their ship. Some jobs are more important because they involve a responsibility for the safety and lives of others. The people who choose these jobs are called sheepdogs and along with that title comes the expectation that they will not abandon ship. Psychology Boy thinks  heaping opprobrium on the failure that is ex-captain Schettino is wrong. He fails to understand that vilification serves an important purpose: It provides preemptive peer pressure that can help stop a wobbly spine from falling all the way out.

Our psych rightly references the fight or flight response and of course this comes into play. But there are two reasons vilification serves a valid purpose. First, the fear of it will stop some folks from taking jobs they are not suited for. Second, the fear of losing the respect of peers can provide the resolve necessary to keep a captain on the bridge rather than elbowing women and children out of his way as he scurries to a lifeboat. When neither of those works and an unfit guardian runs from his post, scorn and stigma should follow. Yes it punishes the malefactor, as well it should. It also serves as a warning to those who would follow in his footsteps. No one is forced to take a job where the lives of others ride on their shoulders or to accept the prestige inherent in these positions. So when someone does they should know disgrace will follow if they shirk this responsibility or wilt under pressure.

A dose of that tough love failed to save Schettino from dishonor when he caught a well-deserved earful from a fellow mariner.

He is Gregorio De Falco, 46, the Livorno port authority chief, who was on duty when the Costa Concordia ran aground off the Tuscan island of Giglio.

Outraged by the events unfolding on that fateful night, De Falco yelled to the captain: "Go back aboard, damn it!

But it may still stand as an object lesson for the next guy faced with that life or death decision. So let's join Signore De Falco and give Schettino the vilification he has earned by calling him a gutless weasel whose showboating and cowardice killed innocent people. Enjoy prison, you wretched excuse for a man.


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