Part Fifteen - It's a Love Boat!
"It isn't just a cruise, it.s a love boat," the ad on TV proclaimed. I had just picked up Dylan (who was now a little over two years old) and as he always did when he came into the house, he turned on the TV. No sooner had I became aware of the noise of the idiot box, then the "love boat" ad disturbed my peace. I became angry, not with Dylan, but at the words I was hearing. I had just gotten back in town from L.A., where I had ridden a ship down from Seattle. The ship I had been on was the ship in the commercial. Had I been the writer of the ad I would have changed the words to; "it isn't just a cruise, it.s a death ship!"
We had two Princess Cruise Lines ships in a row at the yard. This was my first experience with cruises ships. On the first one I could not tell you anything about what it was like up top; I never got further up than the main deck. Down in the parts of the ship that the hustlers don't show in their ads I found these "love boats" to be some of the worst ships I had ever seen, and I have seen a hell of a lot of ships from all over the world.
First, they only repair these ships once a year in the off-season. If a pipe or valve leaks or breaks they build wooden boxes around the leak and fill it with cement, that is, when they do anything at all about it. There were so many leaks in the engine room that even with their bilge pumps running all out full time, they always had a foot or more water down under. Back in the shaft alley I saw water almost up to the catwalk. Many of the pipes were in such bad condition that you could damn near kick holes in them.
We had to be careful that, as we took out one pipe or valve, we did not break the one next to it. I am not just referring to bilge suction pipes, I am talking about most all of the systems; lube oil, fuel oil, ballast, and even the sea water cooling pipes off the sea chest. I even found a sea valve (a sea valve is the first valve of the haul on an intake pipe) in a cement box. If that valve were to break lose you would have seawater flooding in to the ship that you could not stop. That valve should have been replaced at the first port after it began to leak.
The cross pipe off the sea chest had not been properly made and was under a strain on 3 out of 4 flanges. Rather than fix the damn thing, as they should have, they kept putting in more and more gaskets. One flange had 7 gaskets in it and a Dutchmen. If that pipe were to break out you would lose part of the ship's firemain.
I found pumps that did not work, valves that would not open or close, and some pipes were so full of sea shit that little could get through them. One sea chest cracked just under the strain of the dry-dock lifting the ship out of the water.
This was not the worst of it. There was oil all over the place. Fuel and lube oil covered most everything in the engine room. If ever a fire started in the engine room and made its way to the oil in the ventilation uptakes, the fire would spread so fast throughout the ship that the passengers would not have time to make it to the lifeboats.
There were also sections of the inside haul that were rusting away. Rust turns steel into iron oxide and then it just flakes away. The haul, both inside and out are suppose to be maintained by paint and cathodic protection. Cathodic protection is an electrical method to prevent corrosion of metal. On the haul of a ship what they use for cathodic protection are square zinc sacrificial anodes. As you may image, a rusted out haul will weaken the structural integrity of the haul, and that is something you don't want to happen, unless you want a tour of Davy Jones locker.
The second "love boat" we worked on was not finished when it was scheduled to leave the yard. So a number of us yardbirds had to ride the damn thing down to L.A. where it was to pick up passengers. On this little journey I was able to observe the operation of the ship. I have never seen a better example of racism and colonialist rule than on that "love boat". At the top were the English officers, with the captain being the king of the ship. Don't ever question the king, or you will be accused of mutiny.
Then there were the English and American tourist hustlers who were mostly women. There was the ships' crew (those who kept the ship running) who were from Pakistan. There were the workers that dealt with the galley, and maintain the living quarters; they were mostly from the Philippines. At the bottom of the social ladder were the Chinese out of Hong Kong, working in the laundry room. The different groups were not allowed to socialize together. On that "love boat" you had your "place" in the social order and there you stayed, for advancement out of your place was not allowed. On this floating colonialist plantation, where tourist were harvested rather than plant life, compliance to social place and conditions was inherited as it was in the days of the English colonial "empire". They are able to get away with this because the "love boats" carried a Liberia flag.
As it turned out, there was another reason why we were sent with the ship to L.A. There was one pipefitting job on the ship that they did not want to do in port because of asbestos. Once the ship was 20 miles out at sea we were told by the leadman that we had to run some sprinkler pipes down in some storage compartments. To be able to place hangers on the pipes we had to cut through 4 inches of insulation that contained asbestos. The problem was that, like everything else below main deck, the insulation was not maintained and was deteriorating. Though asbestos does not deteriorate, the other martial in the insulation does, and when that happens the asbestos is released. So the profiteers did not want anyone in port to see the deteriorating insulation, because they may be forced to clean up the mess, and that would cut into their profits.
When the leadman took us down to the storage holes to show us what had to be done, I was horrified at what I saw. Asbestos dust was everywhere, even on top of the things that were stored down there. Among these items were toys, games and Christmas stuff for kids. The Christmas stockings were covered with so much dust that they were discolored. I got choked up inside because my first thought was of by son and his beautiful smiling face. I thought about my daughter and all the kids I had grown close to. I could see these murdering profiteers giving those Christmas stockings to some joyful children and then saying, "Merry Christmas, and DIE!!!"
Some people criticize my attitude about the social/economic system and the greedy profiteers, but when I see things like this I realize that there is no reforming a system that breeds such evil people, people who would pursue profits in the death and misery of others. If I am all the things I have been called, undesirable citizen, criminal, un-American and so on, I wear these names with pride, for there is honor in being an outlaw in a system that protects and promotes the evil crimes of the profiteers.
I pointed out all the asbestos dust to my co-workers, and we discussed what we should do about the situation. The leadman stated that we had all the personal protective gear we needed to safely do the job. I stated that this was not the only issue at hand, and it was then agreed that we all would file a grievance with the union when we returned. Todd must have known about this, and thus they were a party to it. On my own, I informed crewmembers about the problem, but I was told that if anybody complained about anything on the ship that they would be fired and put off the ship at the next port. Since the ship had a Liberian flag, U.S. labor and environmental laws do not apply. Some "New Leftists", in the last 30 years, have had an elitist and bigoted view of working people. I recall the slogan from the '60s "the masses are asses". To these leftists working people are considered little more than reactionary, beer drinking inferiors. Yet they cannot understand why most working people will not jump up and support the cause of the day, or sign up for some abstract concept. That is not to say that many of the issues the left talks about are unimportant. Such things as racism, sexism, the environment and peace are important, but the way they are presented, as merely moral concepts, does not relate to the everyday lives of most people.
Working people are first concerned with the struggles of everyday living. Though it is true that many of the issues have a direct bearing on people's everyday lives, they are not talked about in that manner. Most working people know that they cannot trust the government, they know that big business is out to screw them, they don't want the environment destroyed, and so on. They see leftists as self-righteous fools only out to impress themselves. I do not consider myself as a leftist, as far as that goes, I do not include myself in the right, left and in-between political circle of dominating parasites.
I have seen working people time and time again acting in positive ways, not on what some would call issues, but in simple cases of what is right and what is wrong. One example occurred after we had finished the sprinkler system job on the "love boat". The boss told one worker to dump all the scraps and unused material over the side of the ship, including some asbestos. The worker turned to the boss and said "I'm here to fit pipe, not to pollute the sea." The rest of us then got up and walked away leaving the bossman alone with the trash. I do not know what he did with it, the way we felt about it he could stick it where the sun don't shine. You may think that this was just a small insignificant event, but it was an example of workers refusing to do something that they knew was wrong. There was no ideology or "-ism" involved, only common sense.
Incidents like this happen often, like the time I was out in a boat with another worker booming a ship. He reached over the boat and pulled a plastic bag out of the water and said, "those dumb shits, don't they know these kill sea turtles." He was not some New Age eco-warrior; he was just an ordinary working stiff who cared about the world around him.
I have often wondered what makes some people so damn greedy? What makes their heart so damn foul that they will do things such as I have written about? What kind of person would give a child Christmas stockings covered with asbestos? Is there some type of human mutation in the make up of rich people? Are they just born with bad genes? Is there something in the water they drink or the food they eat that makes them this way? The following quote by the capitalist economist Milton Friedman seems to sum up the rich people's attitude better than anything I have ever read:
"Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the foundations of our "free society" as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility, other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible."
For every starving baby in the world, there is a rich person with more than they need. For every child laboring from dawn to dusk, every day of the week, there are rich people wallowing in decadent over-consumption. For every worker injured and whose blood stains the ground, there are rich people greatly profiting from the pain. There is an evil that has inflicted itself upon our world that rivals the work of Satan himself. That evil is the great excess of a few, and the willingness to do anything to gain greater excess, at the expenses of the many.
The bottom line of hunger, war, and the general misery of millions of people across the world is over consumption by a small percentage of people. While it is true that the super rich do most of the hoarding of wealth, the problem includes all of the privileged classes. The good-hearted liberals of the privileged classes will say that the problem lies elsewhere. They point out that they support government programs that "aid" the needy, and that they have even marched for peace! But the needy and most wars are a direct result of over-consumption and the hoarding of wealth. They are just as much a part of the problem as are other privileged folks. You cannot separate the means of accumulation from those parts that are distasteful. It is the system itself that breeds the crimes against humanity and the earth, and all those that benefit from that system are equally responsible, even the goodhearted rich liberal.
The U.S. consumes 46% of the world's produced wealth. While it makes up only 6% of the world's population. It is for this reason that the U.S. feels that it has what they call "interests" all over the world. In the name of U.S. "interests" wars are fought, the earth is plundered, and vast numbers of people are forced to live in misery. Dear liberal, what do you think happens when so few hoard so much? Why do we not talk about dieing babies when analyzing the liberal lifestyle?
Here in the U.S. around 6% of the population controls most of the wealth, and the purpose of the government is to protect and promote the interest of that 6%. It is a crime within the United States of America to advocate changing this arrangement, and it is the role of the military to fight those that resist the United State's 46% stake (what they call their interests) of the world's wealth. Thus, good liberal, you are a direct beneficiary of war, hunger, oppression and exploitation.
The liberal becomes offended by such words. It goes against their self-righteous self-image, but facts are facts, and the decadent lifestyle of even the privileged liberal is paid for in blood and starvation. When confronted by the truth, the liberal will join the conservative in calling for suppression of such I have seen too much in my life to be willing to join the cover-up of reality. For this I may be called many things, radical, malcontent, criminal, REVOLUTIONARYI When I am called such things I remember the words of George Orwell, "in times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Turn me in if you must, but you cannot jail the truth.
Upon my return home and hearing "it isn't just a cruise, it's a love boat" blare out from the TV, I looked upon my son and realized that the struggle is all about him. In the insane pursuits of the profiteers, his life and the lives of all the children mean nothing. My struggle is not just that of a rebel worker, but also that of a father fighting for the well-being of his son.
Upon our return to Todd, we filed our grievance with the union. The union boss refused to pursue the grievance. Partners in crime stick together.