As a species, we cannot afford rich people.

Like most of you, I’ve been half-heartedly following the story some some obscenely rich tourists who went to look at the wreck of the Titanic, for funsies, in a submarine that has been described as sub-standard for such extreme conditions. That, plus a seemingly careless attitude from the CEO of the submarine tour company (the sub doesn’t even have an emergency beacon), meant I was actually surprised to see that they’d done this dive successfully at least a couple times since 2021. There have been comments about the appropriateness of using what amounts to a mass grave as a tourist destination, but that’s not something about which I feel particularly strongly.

Growing up, I read about the voyages of the submarine Alvin, and I very much wanted to go on a dive. Having learned more about what that entails, I’ve mostly lost interest in going down there myself, but I’m glad that other people do make such journeys, for the pictures, video, and information that they bring back. This was not that. The huge expense ($250,000 per passenger, apparently) wasn’t for gathering information with a few tourists along to help fund it. That’s an arrangement that makes sense to me, especially in a capitalist society. If bringing a billionaire along on your research trip makes that trip possible, then sure – take their money and bring them along, as long as they don’t get in the way. From what I can tell, this was all about a rich person making money by selling an experience to other rich people, similar to the recent billionaire space flights we heard about.

Very similar, in fact. It turns out that one of the missing billionaire tourists also went into space on Jeff Bezos’ novelty-shaped rocket. Apparently he’s used his wealth to pay for a number of expensive trips to remote locations, and has thus earned the title “explorer”. Regular readers will no doubt be aware of the huge amount of human suffering it costs to make a billionaire, so you may understand my general lack of concern about this. On a human level, I hope the people on that sub survive. Assuming they weren’t killed immediately, suffocating in a sealed metal tube sounds like a horrible way to die. While I do want to take away all of these people’s money, and actually do something useful with it, I would only condemn the actual people to suffer the same sort of life the rest of us lead, but with guaranteed food, housing and healthcare.

Mainly, I’m just tired of rich people. I’m tired of a system that actively rewards people for ruthless, murderous exploitation. I’m tired of the way everyone in the world has to put up with the whims of these people. Astronomers warned that Musk’s Starlink system could devastate Earth-based astronomy, but they couldn’t actually do anything about it. Educators warned that Gates’ plan to “fix” USian education wouldn’t work, but they couldn’t stop him from messing with a generation of students. Most of the world wants to deal with climate change, but the petty greed of a handful of rich assholes has almost completely prevented us from saving ourselves. Trans people are just trying to live their lives, but on Twitter, Musk has decided to actively support his fellow bigots, and given what a petty man-child he is, it’s almost certainly because his trans daughter disowned him, and his ex-wife started dating a trans woman.

And a handful of billionaires go missing on their deep-sea joy ride, and the news breathlessly covers every detail. There has been news about the refugee ship that sank (possibly with the help of the Greek coast guard), but that coverage has been all but drowned out by the submarine story, and that’s just one of many such ships. Those refugees were just a few hundred out of the many millions who’ve been displaced in recent years, by neocolonial policies and wars, and by climate change. The displaced are just a hundred million out of the billions living and dying in poverty, and a huge portion of that suffering could be avoided, if our society even had the capacity to value life over profit.

How much money is being spent, right now, to find those rich tourists and their shitty submarine? US and Canadian coast guards are involved, as are the navies of those nations, and other branches, and an oil and gas corp. As far as I can tell, the vast majority of that effort would have been unnecessary if the submarine had had an emergency locator beacon, of the kind that’s been available for decades.

From what I can tell, the only thing of real value that we’ve gotten from this, is yet another demonstration that the meritocracy is a lie, and that building our society around that lie has had both devastating and ridiculous consequences.

On balance, I hope that the submarine passengers survive. I also hope that, if that happens, the guy running this submarine company has his toys taken away, because it’s very clear that he cannot play with them responsibly, and it is absurd to the point of offensiveness that the governments of two nations are involved in trying to find him and his shitty submarine, because he couldn’t be bothered to spring for a couple extra safety measures. How many times do we have to bail these people out, before we realize that they’re a wholly unnecessary burden? How many ways do we have to bail them out?

As a species, we cannot afford rich people.

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  1. Ichthyic says

    here’s a thought experiment:

    What if this entire thing is just an elaborate “fake your own death” scheme?

    would explain why the company waited almost 11 hours before reporting the sub missing.

  2. Ichthyic says

    …and the CEO is a self proclaimed “libertarian”.

    wanna bet he has been avoiding paying taxes for a while? I wonder who else on the list of passengers would also want a similar escape hatch…

  3. says

    I had considered that as a way for Mr. Explorer to boost his reputation/profile, but from what I can tell, they really were just too cheap and incompetent to make sure their sub could be found if something went wrong.

  4. Ichthyic says

    but… then the irony is too ironic. it actually IS more plausible to think of them as having never actually gone on the sub to begin with.

    you know what I mean?

  5. Ichthyic says

    oh, btw the current estimate costs of the attempted “rescue” are over 40 million. probably end up over 50.

  6. says

    There was a guy on Tiktok yelling about how they could have just taken them down a little ways, drove around at a safer depth, and played video of past expeditions, and the rich doofuses would probably have been none the wiser.

  7. says

    All this media, military and government concern for three billionaires was somehow completely missing when the Greenfell fire happened and the poor suffered, when Katrina hit Louisiana and the poor suffered, when Syrian refugees or migrants on boats drowned, or many other cases of the poor and vulnerable at risk. IIRC, in the Greenfell fire, the media and property owners tried to blame one of the tenants for starting the fire, to direct attention from the flammable materials put into the building and complete lack of concern for tenant safety, the complete lack of any legal consequences for the owners.

    While there are a lot of jokes going around, some dark but not distasteful (e.g. “the Titanic orchestra played for the submarine crew”; “Orcas: We’re not involved!”) and some cringeworthy, it doesn’t make someone callous or inhuman to point out the double standard in being told who we should – or shouldn’t – care about. It’s comparable to 2021, the Canadian government concerned about a few burnt church buildings but not the thousands of murdered children found on church properties, children whose families want and deserve answers.

  8. xohjoh2n says


    but… then the irony is too ironic

    Actually, I read it’s mostly carbon-fibre.

  9. StevoR says

    Excellent post here thanks. Truth. Well written. Thanks. Sums my position up pretty well here too.

    “Rich” = billionaires for sure and at least the upper millionaires level too in my view FWIW.

  10. StevoR says

    @xohjoh2n : cartoon fuibre? You should see allthe memes! Cruel but funny and .. yeah..

  11. says

    I think it’s worth acknowledging that people who’re worth hundreds of millions and more have given most of humanity every reason in the world to hate them, and they give more such reasons every day. It’s difficult to calculate the harm that they’ve done to humanity, as a class.

    They don’t shed a tear when they condemn millions to poverty and death, so it’s kinda hard to feel much sympathy for them.

  12. says

    Ichthyic: Just because the CEO is a glibertarian, doesn’t mean he’s an evil genius who can engage in any criminal conspiracy he wants. More likely it just means he’s an evil idiot who THINKS he’s a genius.

  13. StevoR says

    FWIW. Pretty clear the Titanic billionaires (x3?) tourists are, indeed , dead now – the billionaires and that 19 year old billionaire’s son and the French expert guide who was crazy or ignorant enough to be shipwreck tour guide here.. as dead as all those unnamed, unknown media-unmourned & unpersonalised refugees who had far less choice in what happened to them – &certainly farles wealth & different skin colours so.. :

  14. says

    In the spirit of accuracy, it seems that the 19 year old and his father were in the realm of several hundred millions, not billions. Not sure how much that matters, but…

  15. says

    As a species, we cannot afford rich people.

    Rich people: “That’s all your fault — YOU’RE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH!”

  16. xohjoh2n says



  17. John Morales says

    We supposedly can’t afford it, but it’s been done since time immemorial, as is evinced in the historical record.

    (Croesus, for example)

    Or: for a few thousand years, it has been afforded.

    (End of the day, one person can only consume so much)

  18. says

    @John Morales – I think it’s debatable whether it has “been affordable” given all the genocide and slavery over the last few centuries.

    But beyond that, yeah – we’ve “made it” so far, except that we’ve destabilized the climate, poisoned basically the entire planet, and drained most of the groundwater faster than it can replenish.

  19. antaresrichard says

    A thought occurred to me: one tragedy of capitalism checking another tragedy of capitalism.

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