The Unfixable Ship: An Allegory
An old sea-faring vessel is making its way across the ocean.
It is a majestic galleon: three giant masts, huge billowing sails — something straight out of Moby Dick.
Unfortunately, the galleon is not as sea-worthy as it looks. It is 234 years old. The ship’s hull is simply not as sturdy as it once was.
Soon, a substantial leak develops and water begins to fill the hull. The men on the ship become alarmed and immediately begin discussing what to do about the leak.
They are still many miles from land. If they do nothing, the ship will sink and the men will be left adrift at sea. So they quickly conclude they must do something. But what?
The strongest men argue that every able-bodied man should begin bailing water. The weak men — those less muscular and unfit — believe only the strong men should bail. After all, bailing will be more taxing on a person with little strength.
The strong men believe it is unfair if they are the only ones bailing.
So the weak men suggest a compromise: For every three buckets of water bailed by a strong man, a weak man will bail one bucket. This, they argue, will be fair.
The strong men still don’t like the compromise. Keeping the ship afloat could mean the difference between life or death! Shouldn’t everybody do what they can?
Alas, the weak men outnumber the strong men five to one. They take up daggers and pistols and force the strong men to begin bailing water. The strong men have no choice so they begin to bail.
Occasionally, a weak man steps in to contribute, but it’s not enough. The water level continues to rise despite the valiant efforts of the strong men to keep the ship from sinking.
As the galleon slowly sinks, and the weak men gloat while the strong men labor, everybody ignores the suggestion of “Crackpot Jack” who was long ago dismissed as crazy: “Why don’t you just repair the leak??”
-Ryan M. Healy