Of course, he had survived! He had been hauled aboard the HMS Carpathia after hours spent floating on debris in the North Atlantic after the giant "unsinkable" sank beneath the surface, dragging with it so many innocent lives.
A few years later, the old-timer was facing another dramatic event in his young life as he battled for personal survival in the trenches of World War 1's Battle of the Somme. He survived again! But it was with searing memories of the filth, the excrement, the rotting flesh, the imminent finality of life in the mud-filled trenches as the rats and other vermin swam through the mud, screeching in their futile own attempts to survive just a day longer.
"It was the rats, the rats..." the old-timer told me through trembling lips. "They were everywhere! As the Titanic went down they were swimming for their lives, in the trenches of the Somme they were swimming through the mud ... rats and human beings dying in their thousands!"
I could not then, I can not now, even begin to imagine the infinite mental damage done to the old-timer's young mind by the experiences. The horrors had lived with him then for almost half a century and one more World War, and they presumably remained with him until he reached the final comfort of his family grave, resting in final peace.
Ninety years on from the FIRST Armistice, the rats are still running ... the Somme may now only cater for curious tourists and battle field coach tours ... but not a million miles away on Wall Street, New York, the rats are still running, screeching for their OWN survival and swimming in the mud and excrement of their own making as the financial Armagheddon approaches with the speed of an express train and the full force of several freighters.
Are the circumstances so very different?
The quest for dominance and unbridled greed have dictated the circumstances of each conflict over the last century and more ... yet the economists and their political masters never learn! The latest series of financial crashes have sent the rats out in force fleeing the sinking ships, unconcerned by the mud they themselves churn up in their desperation to get away from the carnage they themselves have caused.
Just the other day, I had an angry email from a North American investor who told me that he would NEVER, ever think of investing in Venezuela again! His particular bone of contention was the elusive timing of the "final solution" to his woes in an investment in Venezuelan gold mining. He had lived with the dream of Sir Walter Raleigh's unsubstantiated existence of "El Dorado, City of Gold" in the Venezuelan jungles ... but had only lately discovered that it was rather the home to one of Venezuela's most fearsome prisons in which the dregs of Venezuelan criminality (No! NOT the government!) are warehoused long-term with no hope of escape or return to society!
"All I want is for the (Venezuelan) government to get its act together and give final clearance for gold mining to begin," the unrequited investor moans. "All I want to do is to cash in my shares, hopefully without a loss and then forget Venezuela ever existed!"
The sentiment is probably echoed in many homes across North America and around the world, witnessing how the Venezuelan government, patently, has been unable so far to set its house in order. Incredulous foreigners see how President Hugo Chavez Frias travels the world making lofty and "arrogant" (from their perspective) statements about the deplorable state of political and financial affairs into which Washington and New York has sunk itself, and, all the while, they blind their eyes to what's happening on their own doorstep as Bush caused the destruction of more skyscrapers in the New York financial district that Al Qaeda was ever alleged to have done to the twin towers.
YES! The Venezuelan government DOES urgently need to set its house in order, but while the rats are scurring, screeching from the asphalted streets of Manhattan, it serves as a convenient distraction for the US massmedia to asphixiate themselves on the fact that the Russians are forging closer alliances with Latin America as if their own neo-colonialist rejection of the same were not cause enough to look for friends elsewhere, than in those who will readily stab them in the back claiming imperfection in those who have traditionally been a sorry reflection of their own imperfections, which are many.
Venezuela is proving to the world that, with the demise of the US$, and the break-up of "capitalism" as the greedy North of the USA's introverted focus, there is a big world outside the "sandwich" between Canada and Mexico that really matters ... the rest of the world!
While George W. Bush may finally claim to be master of the universe, the lie is becoming all the more apparent and, with the US Senate currently indisposed to getting him off the hook he has created for himself, there's really no need for the millions of hard-working individuals in the REAL WORLD of the United States, to pony up to bail this particular criminal's (Bush) need to avoid the condemnation of history as the greatest presidential failure of all time!
The old-timer told me, as a boy, that his most lasting experience of both the sinking of the Titanic and the trenches of the awful Somme was the mell-pell scurrying, the screeching of the rats in their efforts to get away, to survive!
Yes! What a difference two world wars, Vietnam, Iraq etc., etc., etc., make! DUH!