The Implosion of Our Humanity

Linda Sharp
10 min readJun 23, 2023

Like so many around the world, I have kept a virtual vigil the past five days since news was announced of the Titan submersible having lost contact with the surface.

Like so many tragedies that befall we frail mortals, this had all the stuff of movie making — and God knows there is a script being drafted in more than one writer’s head currently — the history of one of our greatest disasters, the Titanic; billionaires with the kind of adventuring lust that money makes possible; the curious and mockable construction and steering device (a game controller); the easily imagined terror of the conditions: cold, dark, cramped, a toilet behind a curtain, a dwindling oxygen supply; a teen who only went because his dad so badly wanted to go; and a plethora of resources brought to bear to save five lives.

Hell, take my money, Hollywood.

As a fellow traveler on this big blue marble, it has not been difficult to imagine each possible scenario. I am a human being. Deprive me of oxygen, plunge me into darkness, freeze me — I can put myself into any and all of those sensations. Especially the fear. We have all held our breath to see how long we can. We are all familiar with the panic and subsequent sweet relief when we take the next breath. How many of us are afraid of the dark? Dark makes everything suspect, scary. And cold? Look, I get uncomfortable when the thermometer hits 70, so being cross legged in the freezing dark knowing I am probably going to run out of oxygen?

Again, I’m human — imagining the worst was bad enough.

But then on top of the depressing reports over the past few days came the inevitable virtual cherry on this shit parfait — the horrible, mocking, eat-the-rich memes, comments, and glee over the fact that rich people were the victims.

I get it. People do what people do in the face of crisis, uncertainty, death. While a percentage immediately retreats to the recognized humanity of one another, others take real pleasure in the pain they see and are vocal about it, and another percentage, while not truly heartless, face grievous injury or death with black humor. I’m not above it or below it. There have been plenty of times in my own life where my dark humor during awful moments would stymie or repulse someone on the outside looking in.

The week my father was checking out of Casa de Life — I was the queen of bad puns, jokes — to everyone in the room, hell, to him laying there on the bed actively dying.

My child transitioning. I stated it then, and I stand by it now — while it was the most serious parenting I have ever done in my life, joking was a huge part of how we all moved through it. How we all still move through it.

We’re humans, we cope in weird ways.

Yet as much as I understand the impulse to share the memes, create the memes, openly castigate the five people involved and how they spent their money — so much of it poured out because the internet makes it really easy to act the asshole. We see it every single day online. Every comment thread, every tweet. Honestly, post a comment that you like vanilla ice cream and someone will immediately call you a fascist prick for not liking chocolate. Post support for LGBTQIA and the filth will pour forth — the latest favorites are to immediately call one a groomer or pedo.

In this case, all the ire, the mocking, the glee was spurred on by one thing: these people are rich, ergo they simply deserve what they got. And what they obviously did not deserve was any measure of sympathy, care, or concern.

I just cannot get behind that part.

These are five people none of us had heard of before Sunday. There are a plethora of exceedingly wealthy people on this planet — you’ll never know all their names. Why should you? Not every one of them has invented something so ubiquitous that their product and name go hand in hand. Amazon — Bezos. Gates — Microsoft. Musk — SpaceX, Tesla, the proliferation of white supremacy.

Yes, several of them paid $250,000 a piece to do what many have done before them — visit the final resting place of the Titanic. Not unlike James Cameron, who has made the dive nearly three dozen times, they, too, were fascinated by the wreckage. They were excited by the opportunity to go where so few have gone before. Space, Titanic, Everest, etc — there’s even a name for these people: Thrillionaires.

Quite frankly? I may not understand the impulse, the thrill seeking, the risks, but ultimately it’s their dime.

I freely admit that if I were suddenly a billionaire, while I would absolutely personify the word philanthropy, I would also indulge myself in what makes me happy, things I have always wanted to do but that were out of reach — for me it would be travel, a beachfront home on Kauai, one in Santa Barbara. Seriously, who among us hasn’t played the Powerball game of “what if?” I have some really great, open hearted friends and family in this world, but not a single one of them would turn monk if handed $420 million (Saturday night’s Powerball amount). They would help others pay bills, contribute to charities, and they would also indulge themselves.

Nowhere in that would they lose their humanity in my eyes. They would not suddenly merit less concern, less consideration. And they certainly would not be deserving of peril or death just because their bank balance increased.

I am totally on board with the observations about the disparity we have seen in how a ferry of poor people were viewed/resources deployed and how many ships, agencies, departments were brought to bear to try to find these Titan passengers. There is very valid criticism to be vocalized and I agree that one life should not be worth more than another or see such efforts galvanized based on social and financial strata.

Such is the unfair world in which we live.

Did these five people give to charity, share their wealth? Let’s take a look:

Hamish Harding — billionaire philanthropist. Yes, he owned an aviation company out of Dubai. He held three Guinness records based on his adventuring. He also used a lot of his money towards malaria eradication and animal repopulation. Was he also a prick? No idea. It’s possible to be many things in one body. Did he deserve to have his body disintegrate instantly just because he was rich? No.

Shahzada Dawood — billionaire businessman, investor, philanthropist. Yes, money to spare. Money enough to indulge in his passions for exploration and adventure, but also money enough for passion projects like clean energy, donating to mental health initiatives in Pakistan post COVID, and developing low-income communities to maximize social and economic impact and build along business interests. A shitheel? Who knows? I do know he did not deserve to perish in such a horrific way just because he could afford the price of admission.

Sulemon Dawood — 19, a business school student with a presumably easy life based on family finances. By all accounts, a nice young man interested in sci-fi literature, Rubik’s cubes, and volleyball. According to his Aunt, he was also “terrified” and “wasn’t very up for it” in terms of going on this expedition. He did it for his father who was a lifelong Titanic enthusiast. Was he a privileged a-hole? Maybe, maybe not. Did he deserve to have his life cut short in such dramatic fashion just because his father could afford to indulge his passion? NO.

Paul Henri-Nargeolet — billionaire researcher, expert on Titanic, director of Underwater Research at RMS Titanic Inc, nicknamed Mr. Titanic for his vast knowledge. He had done this dive nearly three dozen times before as a researcher and guide for others. By all accounts a nice man whose entire adult life has been the sea, from the Navy to underwater adventuring all over the planet, to being considered the foremost authority on all things Titanic and her wreckage. Monied? Absolutely. Deserving of a death that is difficult to comprehend in its obliteration of all involved?

Stockton Rush — CEO of OceanGate, millionaire. Coming from two wealthy families, he has been able to indulge his passions from a young age. At 19 he became the youngest jet transport-rated pilot in the world. Always interested in looking up, and once aspiring to be the first man on Mars, he ultimately turned his attention downward, saying in a 2017 interview, “I realized that what I really wanted to do was explore. I wanted to be Captain Kirk and in our lifetime, the final frontier is the ocean.” Privileged, ability to be overly confident/self indulgent? Yes. Capricious with the safety issues surrounding Titan? Quotes and concerns through the years from others in the field would seem to indicate that. Did he deserve to completely disappear in a nanosecond?

My point is that means should not be some automatic disqualifier for humanity. We all have more than some. We all have less than others. And I refuse to lessen someone’s worth just because their net worth is enviable. Why? Simple. Because I refuse to lessen someone’s worth simply because my net worth is more than theirs. Their behavior, how they treat others? Absolutely. Call me Judge Judy. I think we can all agree that the passing of certain individuals would benefit mankind on the whole.

It is easy to play the “what could they have done with $250,000” game. Feed a bunch of people. Buy housing for some others. Etc, etc, etc. But that’s not what they did with this particular quarter million. I had a hundred dollar lunch today. Could I have done something philanthropic with that money? Sure. But I didn’t with that particular C note. I chose to have lunch with my husband. I certainly hope that indulgence doesn’t wipe out the generosity I show at other times, the money I spend on others when I should be more worried about my own, the time I donate, etc. We all treat ourselves (a meal, a concert, new shoes, trinkets) when that money could/should probably be put to better use, or could be used to help someone else.

I think it is a very slippery slope to take this one trait — that of having a lot of money — and casually write off a total stranger’s death as deserved. That is no different than doing it based on skin color, religion, weight, a cleft lip, gender, sexual orientation.

Am I jealous of that kind of money? Hell, yes. Because I do play the Powerball what if game and I have a laundry list of things I would do with that kind of financial access. From setting up foundations to quietly helping elevate the lives of so many people I know in real life, and so many I know through this blog real estate. I would spread it around like soft butter on warm bread. But make no mistake, I would eventually be doing it from a beachfront in Kauai.

These five individuals died in a way that is hard to comprehend. An implosion at that depth was, in the words of James Cameron today, the equivalent of “10 cases of dynamite going off.” While there may have been roughly five identifiable pieces of debris left, there will be no bodies found. That destruction was immediate, total, particles, not parts. For their families, friends, colleagues, I hope there is comfort to be found in the immediacy. In the certainty that their loved ones were never aware, did not have time to fear. That they were one moment and were not the next.

I found this quote from Paul-Henri Nargeolet in an interview he gave many years ago. In it he was asked about his fears of repeatedly diving so deep. His reply was simple, concise. “When you’re in very deep water, you’re dead before you realize that something is happening, so it’s just not a problem.”

I don’t know them, so I cannot really mourn them. But I will not casually write them off with some bad jokes or infer that they deserved this death. That is no more acceptable than the heinous comments and jokes I have seen about the hundreds of poor migrants who died in the ferry disaster last week.

And here’s the thing. A week from now we will have all moved on and forgotten both tragedies. But how we have responded, how we have normalized marginalizing, hell, wishing death on total strangers, will have eroded our structural integrity just a bit more. Like the Titan, that built up weakness will catch up with us.

Let’s not allow our humanity to implode.



Linda Sharp

Author, columnist, blogger. Don’t Get Me Started and Transparent Trans Parent blogs