“What’s in a name?” asked Juliet in Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The following synonyms for some maritime names and phrases may not smell sweet to the parties referred to. I hope, however, that readers of Marine Café Blog will find them funny, yet not detached from reality.
Why are seafarers still being exploited and subjected to all sorts of abuse in the 21st century? It is as though they were entangled in a vast web full of opportunistic spiders. All this in spite of ILO Maritime Labour Convention, 2006; the loud, incessant talk about seafarers’ rights; and the new stream of slogans about seafarers being ’key workers’ and ‘heroes of global trade’. The reasons for this sad state of affairs are not hard to find . One only has to turn to some old proverbs for the answers.
“These are the times that try men’s souls,” Thomas Paine wrote in his pamphlet of essays, ‘Crisis’. He was referring to the American Revolution and the harsh winter of 1776. His statement, however, could apply as well to the time of the coronavirus — indeed, to any time when a person has to wrestle with an extraordinarily difficult or unpleasant situation. I hope the following quotes will provide some inspiration to my readers, especially those who toil at sea and take risks others don’t have to face.
Proverbs may sound banal and old hat to some people. But these short, pithy sayings which have been handed down from generation to generation have much wisdom in them. They are like small fruits from mankind’s living tree of knowledge. The following are some such proverbs which seem quite suitable for certain players on the maritime stage.
Shanties (shipboard work songs) are fun to listen to because of their typically jaunty rhythm and hilarious lyrics. One exception is the popular ‘Leave Her, Johnny’, which was sung by 19th-century sailors on the Atlantic Ocean packet trade. Despite its dash of humour, this shanty tells of the trials and tribulations of seafarers.
One has to be a sailor to experience a storm of sea. However, there are enough storms on shore that are just as horrible. I do not mean the ones weathermen track with satellites. I mean the trials and tribulations which all mortals undergo — what Shakespeare’s Hamlet called the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” in his famous ‘To be, or not to be‘ soliloquy. The following works of art may well serve as allegories of life in these troubled and troubling times.
It has been my custom to publish a list of maritime wishes for the New Year. The following are 10 such wishes I had made in previous years. All remain unfulfilled. They lie like dead seashells on the shore, which hardly surprises me. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes, and many in the maritime world are creatures of habit. Be that as it may, I still believe in dreams and wishes. A happy and peaceful 2021 to all of Marine Café Blog’s readers and supporters.
Marine Café Blog has been guided by three basic precepts since it started in 2009. Call a spade a spade. Don’t kiss ass (it’s incompatible with honest writing). Serve it hot and flavourful like coffee. The following is a list of the blog’s strongest brews in 2020 — each one a reflection of the three rules that have sustained the blog and defined its character.
This year has not been the best of times, but neither has it been the worst. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic killed more than 50 million people worldwide compared with the 1.76 million-plus who have died so far from COVID-19. Still, many may find little to be glad about 2020, except perhaps the billionaires, some of whom have become even richer because of the pandemic. I hope the following works of art will give readers of Marine Café Blog a measure of optimism and a sense of renewal as they welcome the new year.
As the end of the old year nears, I thought I would share three songs in remembrance and honour of seafarers. I dedicate these songs to all those who are still working at sea, to those who have grown old and are now retired, and to those who have sadly departed. As the Scottish dramatist and novelist Sir James Matthew Barrie (1860–1937) wrote, “God gave us memories that we might have roses in December.” Smell the roses, dear readers.
Yesterday, the 20th of December, was the 33rd anniversary of the Doña Paz ferry tragedy. As usual, the event whizzed past most Filipinos like a fart in the wind. There was hardly any mention of it on social and news media. As I wrote more than 10 years ago, “Filipinos have such short memories and Philippine ship operators have amnesia.”
“Young man, be not forgetful of prayer,” wrote Fyodor Dostoevsky in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. “Every time you pray, if your prayer is sincere, there will be new feeling and new meaning in it, which will give you fresh courage, and you will understand that prayer is an education.” Not everyone believes in the power of prayer. But for those who do, here are five prayers that may give seafarers the fresh courage to face difficult times.
The COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a fertile ground for maritime rhetoric. Somebody shouted ‘Crew Change!” and suddenly everyone is mouthing the same slogan. Interestingly, the word “repatriation” is hardly ever mentioned. But that is exactly what seafarers who are stranded at sea urgently need: to be brought back to their home countries and be with their loved ones. The following are some specimens of the kind of language which has sprouted during the pandemic. There is nothing wrong with slogans and speeches — as long as they are not, to borrow Shakespeare’s words in his play Macbeth, all sound and fury, signifying nothing.