After being stranded in the Gulf of Mexico since Sunday, the Triumph, a Carnival cruise ship is being towed into Mobile, Ala., by smaller ships, fighting thunderstorms and high winds to reach port.
The traumatized passengers were trapped in deplorable conditions for 5 days, and we should all take a moment to pray and hope for their safe return home. However, this also clearly highlights the contrast between typical “first world problems” and problems experienced by poorer people and poorer nations.
A fire aboard the ship on Sunday crippled its water and sewage system, leaving the ship without running water and very few toilets. One passenger had to be evacuated for emergency dialysis due to her history of kidney problems. Passengers were given bags in which to "do their business," and people had to resort to sleeping on the deck of the ship when the air conditioning went out. The ship’s crew was handing out food, but supplies are dwindling and lines to get food are long. In an effort to appease passengers, the crew began handing out free booze.
The conditions these passengers were and still are being subjected to are not typical first world problems: they are awful and deplorable. With sewage leaking into some of their bedrooms, the passengers are rightfully disgruntled and horrified. However, this experience shows the disconnect between what are typical first world problems and what are real problems: the problems experienced by the impoverished in the “global South” and around the world.
Now, let me clearly emphasize the biggest difference between the problems experienced by the poor and people in the “global South” and the problems that these cruise ship passengers have faced over the last few days: these passengers were stranded in the middle of the ocean; the poor are not. These passengers had severely limited access to resources and were in competition for the limited supplies available on a completely different level than what is comparable to the poor elsewhere.
Since these passengers are stranded, they cannot escape the filth surrounding them and are at a tremendous risk for infection and illness. And when you add the psychological aspect of hysteria and chaos among a group of panicking, confused passengers, it makes the situation experienced by the passengers distinct from the experiences of the poor around the world.
However, the issues experienced by the passengers stranded on the Triumph such as no air conditioning, running water, or proper sewage, and a lack of food is experienced by millions around the world on a daily basis, not just for 5 days in the middle of the ocean.
These impoverished people also experience a high risk of infection and disease in their deplorable conditions. While the people of the “global South” or in “third world countries” are not stranded in the middle of the ocean, when we compare the conditions they experience daily to the conditions that the passengers of the Triumph experienced, a huge disconnect between the problems of the “first world” and the problems of the “third world” becomes painfully obvious.
While we should continue to pray and hope for the safe return of the Triumph and its passengers and wish for their recovery from their traumatic experience, we cannot fail to forget that the conditions that these passengers were subjected to are similar to the daily lives of millions around the world.