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On Bailing and Bailing Out

You’re on a ship and it’s taking on water. What do you do? Do you help bail the ship or do you find a lifeboat and take off by yourself while the others are busy? Unless you’re close to land, your odds are not good in the lifeboat. On the other hand, if you try to save the ship, your survival depends on other people and other factors beyond your control. But if you get in the lifeboat, you’re either on your own or you’re with others who put themselves ahead of the group’s well-being. Is it better to stay and bail or to bail out?

Another scenario, even tougher: You’re a hoplite in a Greek phalanx or a you’re a Roman legionary. You’re up against a very tough enemy. You can save yourself by leaving your place and deserting the unit. If everyone else stays to fight, you have a good chance of getting away safely. But here’s the kicker: Every other hoplite or legionary is thinking the same. If enough desert the line, the enemy will trample those who stayed and then will be free to hunt down the individual deserters. Your safety actually depends on everyone else choosing the good of the unit over their individual good. Paradoxically, your individual good is best served by working for the group good.

The scenarios can be more complicated. There might be only one lifeboat, so only the first to give up have a chance to save themselves. The leaking ship might have ship’s officers assuring everyone that everything is fine, there’s no leak, it’s just a spill from someone carrying a bucket of water. Just go back below deck and leave this to those whose job it is to keep things running. Even worse, the ship might have people knocking holes in the hull, while others demand that they be allowed to express themselves as they see fit.

What do you do when your nation is foundering? Do you give it your all to bail and to encourage others to help? Do you bail out and try to find safety in another land? Do you determine that the nation is going down no matter what and scarf up as much of its wealth as possible before abandoning it? Or do you tell yourself that things will be fine because the country has pulled through problems before?

It’s easy to say “I’m fed up with it all and I’m dropping out.” It’s a lot harder to say “I still have hope that things could be better, and I’m going to act on it.”

Of course, it’s plain foolish to go down with the ship, still bailing as the water goes over your head. The trick is figuring out whether your efforts on the bailing bucket will do any good or if the situation is hopeless and you need to save yourself.

Is the United States at the “every man for himself” point? I don’t think so. Are we at the point that we all need to bail — and to throw overboard those who are knocking holes in the hull — or we’re going to sink? Absolutely.


11 thoughts on “On Bailing and Bailing Out

  1. I’m with you on that last paragraph.

    “Do you bail out and try to find safety in another land?”
    Take note – There is nowhere else. This is it, you make your stand here.

    1. No more hills to die on. Stand here or it’s one long stretch of plain and they have cavalry to hunt fleeing people down…

  2. You’re on a ship and it’s taking on water. What do you do? Do you help bail the ship or do you find a lifeboat and take off by yourself while the others are busy?

    Third alternative: You could search for and (try to) patch the leaks.

    1. Patching leaks is mentioned in the essay but didn’t fit into the title. It’s all about style, man!

    2. 3.a.
      You could search for and do something (guillotine recommended) about those making/profiting from the leaks

  3. It’s not the point of your essay, but the essay made me think of a habit I developed a long time ago, surveying the landscape. Getting on a boat for a deep sea fishing trip – look the boat over carefully, has it been maintained?
    Many years ago I was taking a flight from Dhaka (Bangladesh) to Chittagong, a small turboprop. Having been associated with flight since an early age I took one look at the plane and told my partner “no way in hell”. Oily undercarriage, dirty bug covered flight surfaces, that plane was death trap. We waited several hours for another flight with a different company. The original plane proved out my reluctance as it never made it off the ground that day.

    Situational awareness. When I walk into a crowd I check it out. Standing in a store I look at the others when they come in.

    I try to avoid the worst.

    1. I try to avoid the worst.

      So do I, but I ended up marrying her anyway. -rimshot-

      1. Not sure a thumbs up is appropriate, but…
        I just got lucky. Sometimes dumb luck is better than anything else.

  4. MARS.  Get to Mars and set up the Martian Constitutional Republic and establish the MCRN to sink the boats of Earth riff raff.

    1. …and perhaps have the sweet “Rosinante” to fight from, Skyler?

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