“It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”

– Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy

“Eat The Rich” is a common phrase we hear in social media all the time. From TikTok, to Twitter there is always some discourse centered around economic inequality and how the only solution is to eliminate the 1% in some way. Although the “eating” part is often utilized for comedic effect, the overall meaning of this message is that we must eradicate notions like “upper class” and any ideas of a social hierarchy. There hasn’t been a case in which there seemed to be a unification amongst the internet regarding this “Eat The Rich” rhetoric until very recently. It was on June 19th that news of a missing submersible reached public ears, most people hearing about it on public platforms such as TikTok. Details emerged which stated that there were 5 passengers aboard the missing submersible, including Stockton Rush, the CEO of “OceanGate,” the company that owned the submersible the “Titan.” The “Titan” was meant to travel around 12,500 feet down to the actual Titanic and offer an up close look at the Titanic for a “measly” price of $250,000. The main question initially floating around TikTok was “who would pay a quarter of a million dollars for an excursion down to the “Titanic”. The answer? The 1%. Once the identities of the people aboard the submersible were released to the public, rather than sympathy or the usual “thoughts and prayers” that followed tragedies such as these, what followed was an outpouring of memes and admonishment of those onboard. This eventually led to a few people questioning why there was such an overwhelming lack of empathy amongst the general population for this tragedy. At the end of the day, human lives were in danger, why was there so much cruelty aimed at them and their situation? 

There is no single answer for the overwhelming lack of empathy that was shown by many during this situation. People across multiple platforms voiced different reasons as to why this tragedy did not elicit any form of sadness in them and why they instead chose to ridicule. The first and most common reason was due to the fact that the passengers aboard were extremely wealthy. Wealthy to the point that they were able to drop $250,000, a quantity of money some cannot even imagine possessing, on a recreational activity in depths even sharks don’t dare venture into. While this is oftentimes the reason that is widely discussed, this places a lot of blame on the victims and outshines the second, and much more important reason for people’s lack of sympathy. The blatant ignorance for safety that the CEO of OceanGate possessed. There were multiple interviews in which he proclaimed that the submarine industry was “obscenely safe” and expressed his want to build a submersible that violated a lot of the safety regulations put in place for many submarines. The submersible he built violated so many regulations that it legally could not be classified as a submarine, but had to be identified as a submersible. Prior to this expedition, the CEO had actually fired an employee who predicted a tragedy would occur. This individual had voiced the lack of safety the vessel possessed and knew “an accident would occur.” Additionally, the submersible was built with parts not typically used to build submarines, and had only undergone a few manned excursions to the depth the titanic was located. The irony of this situation was extremely clear to the internet, and it was mentioned by James Cameron himself, a movie director and prominent ocean explorer, that it was the very same hubris that led to the tragedy of the “Titanic” that led to the tragedy of the “Titan.” 

The last, and possibly the most important reason why there was so much resentment built up against these 5 passengers on the “Titan” is because of another incident that coincidentally happened around the same time. This incident involved a refugee ship in the Mediterranean. A refugee boat that contained around 750 migrants from Pakistan, Palestine, Syria and Egypt was set on course to Italy on June 14th. However, the overloaded boat floated into open seas near Greek waters, where it capsized and sank. This tragedy resulted in the (confirmed) death of 82 people and 500 people are still unaccounted for. There have been many questions raised about how Greece handled the situation, and the level of involvement the coast guard played in the eventual capsizing of the boat. While this tragedy progressed with minimal attention from international news, with many having to find out about it from TikTok, the OceanGate tragedy received widespread attention from many news channels. This drastic difference in reaction and reporting of these two incidents drew people to a frustrating realization. Money triumphs. Despite the fact that both situations were incredible tragedies, one received widespread media attention while the other was mainly unknown to the public and later discovered on social media. One tragedy just so happened to have occurred to rather wealthy people, while the other happened to 500 migrants and refugees, a group that many countries have been establishing more and more policies and restrictions against. It was these two completely separate tragedies that led the people to a singular conclusion, and, as a result, a singular emotion, contempt. 

Illustration by iStock/z_wei

About the Author

Hi! I'm a blog writer for WEW at the uofa! I'm in my first year majoring in biology and love consuming any forms of media I can: music, reading and movies, I love them all! I hope you enjoy my blogs and come back to WEW to read more!