Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Abandon Ship!

I really love old movies, especially Alfred Hitchcock. The movie Abandon Ship (1957) is also one of my favorites and it raises some very important ethical questions.
The premise of the movie is very simple. A large luxury liner is destroyed after an old mine collides with it. Only about 30 people survive. They are crammed into a lifeboat, with some holding onto the side floating in the ocean. The captain dies from injures sustained during the blast and the next in line Alec Holmes (Tyrone Power) assumes command. After a series of events, they realize they have little chance of survival with the boat so weighted down. Captain Holmes then orders the people that are sick or injured to be thrown overboard, so the strong can survive. The remaining passengers row for the nearest continent 1500 miles away. They eventually survive a storm and praise the captain for his bold leadership which enabled the strong to survive (the boat would have most likely sank if all the people including the weak remained during the storm). Just as they are praising him for his decision they see a ship in the distance and realize they are saved. They then began to turn on Homles and leave him with the sole responsibility. As they near the ship they realize that all the people thrown overboard are alive and have been rescued.
As they climb the ladder to the deck of the ship a voice over tells us that this was a true story and the real Holmes was found guilty for attempted murder and was given only six months in prison because of the extremely unusual circumstances. Then the question is posed, "How would you find Captain Holmes, guilty or innocent?"
This is great story about human emotion and suffering, but even more than that a story about ethics. In a similar situation, what would you have done? Would you have subscribed to the survival of fittest and thrown the weaker ones overboard? Or would you have remained moral and possibly cost all the people their lives? I hope in that situation I would have remained moral, but I can't say with complete certainty I would have not done what Captain Holmes did. What would you have done?

1 comment:

Lambo said...

good question. I'd have thrown all the guys overboard, so i could flirt with the girls without competition.