Tuesday, October 19

Hilarious, literal, beautifully simple: Big Boat Stuck in the Suez Canal was the narrative we needed | Suez Canal

TOAs the Ever Given was released from the Suez Canal on Monday, just under a week after it got stuck there like a burly gentleman on a waterslide, the prevailing attitude online was neither relief nor celebration.

The hashtag #putitback began to be trending when people, with varying degrees of sincerity, immediately became nostalgic for the moment when everyone’s attention was focused on the huge lout of a boat moving through 200 km of canal.

I consider myself one of those people who felt strangely comforted by this show, and as the ships begin to move once again around the Suez, I began to wonder why.

First, it is simply novel that there is a major news event that is hitting multiple global markets at the same time, which I can explain to my two-year-old without much difficulty: Big Boat Stuck. You can get into the why’s and why’s and really dig into the steering systems and the consistency of the silt at the bottom of the canal, but this is all ultimately a showcase for “Big Boat Stuck.”

And yet, despite this simplicity, for much longer than anyone thought possible, the combined efforts of whole planet Big Boat failed to take off.

There is something strangely reassuring about a great global problem, the essential elements of which you understand immediately Y instinctively.

Writer Brandy Jensen got it right on Twitter last week:

But it wasn’t just the simplicity The problem was its precious literalism. Big Boat Stuck was not emblematic of a deeper, thornier subject we really should be talking about. There was no subtext to deal with. I mean, there absolutely was, but happily these little calls for help were practically drowned out by Big Boat Stuck’s merry foghorn. To put it another way, there wasn’t a lot of “Is there not, when one considers it, a great ship of malice caught in the channel of society?“Turning the speech around.

Also and perhaps because of this, we had a news story that captured the world’s attention that it was practically impossible to get angry with each other. There were factions, no doubt: Team Why don’t we blow up the ship? Equipment just push it with a bigger boat; Team Boat Lives In Canal Now, but none of them disagreed on the core issue: Big Boat stuck.

And so, while Ever Given’s own situation was tirelessly literal, I don’t think the same can be said for the concomitant fixation on it. There is something deeper in our response. It has become so rare to encounter a problem that we fully understand, that does not divide us along political lines and, more importantly, where the solution has absolutely nothing to do with us. There is no concomitant personal fault in relation to Big Boat Stuck. We are not called to change our behavior in any way, or to reflect on our choices, or to scold our co-workers. It was an unfathomable Big Boat, and it was stuck, and there was nothing anyone outside of the 11 tugs and a handful of bulldozers could do about it. Everybody take the afternoon off and see how stuck this great ship is.

And while all of that may sound terribly depressing, there was also a wickedly empowering aspect to it. At the risk of destroying Adam Curtis, we find ourselves in a time when the importance of the individual is endlessly emphasized, while the real can of the individual is gradually revealed to us as virtually null. At times like these, a kind of dizzying and paradoxical sense of power can be found when the things of a handful of people on board a ship can instantly paralyze 12% of world trade.

Which is, in its own way, a beautiful thing.


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