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Shut up, I am busy

Today I read the quote of Jack Phillips, telegraph operator on the Titanic. He received various warnings about the approaching icebergs but reacted “shut up, I am busy! “.

Mr. Phillips at least knew what icebergs were and should also be aware of his responsibility to do something with the warnings. His only excuse for negligence could be his personal conviction that the Titanic was indeed unsinkable.

At the same time I receive messages that the current world of banking, business and politics use the same “shut up, I am busy” attitude. Plenty of warning calls tell about financial, ecological and humanitarian disaster which seem categorically ignored.

The difference with Mr. Phillips’s awareness of the danger of icebergs is that in banking, business and politics people don’t even know what goes wrong. They just do their job blindly, often fixing leaks to prevent their ships from sinking rather than change direction. They are managed by people who are already seated in their own lifeboats, equally unaware but suspicious of the risks. In economy it is not just the ship that is sinking, it’s the entire fleet. Captains tend to watch the sinking of the others, unaware of their own responsibilities in this.

Some of us, in view of disaster, build our own safe ships, without bankers, business or politicians. We don’t even warn anymore but simply invite people on board our boats. There is no “shut up, I am busy” attitude here but rather “come on board, and gives us a hand”.