The World - At Sea


 Fed up with the being anchored to a place that limits your capacity for perpetual self-indulgence? Looking for a place that comes without the trappings of Nationality, a Government and inhabitants that do not respect your pre-eminence?

‘The World’ is a Ocean Liner. It looks like a cruise ship but doesn’t see itself as a cruise ship. You don't rent a cabin on this beast. Rather, you buy a 'residence' and thereby become part of an exclusive community, railed off from the trials, tribulations and petty discomforts of the rest of planet by a wall of money. Security, anonymity and privacy are watchwords. It is even hard to establish who lives on The World. While conventional liners carry thousands of people, this one is inhabited by only a few hundred at most.

CNN called it ‘a floating city of millionaires’ and said that stepping onto it 'feels like boarding a 21st-century Titanic, such is its scale and grandeur.…...this gleaming 644 feet-long white vessel is the largest, and probably most exclusive, "residential yacht" on earth’. It is certainly well-equipped, with the only full-sized at-sea tennis court, a 7,000-square foot spa and fitness centre, and a 12,000-bottle wine collection. Plus of course the Helipad, putting greens, swimming pools etc.

A 'Residential Yacht' ? 

The idea is that, by casting off the shackles on life on land and cruising forever, you can escape the drab banality of life. Luxury is an obvious attraction, but there are others. If you are never permanently resident anywhere, where do you need to pay taxes? And the passengers collectively get to choose where they go. Trouble somewhere? Go into survivalist mode somewhere else!

Just in case you feel a twinge of guilt, lording it while the planet bakes, the company makes environmental claims. This year, they are going to the Antarctic twice. As far as I can see no amount of using better grade fuel or recycling your complementary shampoo bottles will ever compensate for the damage done by a trip like that. Or, for that matter, the climate-wrecking emissions that result from building an up-market escape raft with  over 40,000 tons of steel. 

But I mustn't complain. The Website says that 'throughout their life of adventure, residents reinforce their sense of reverence, respect and passion for this remarkable planet. From the mangrove forests of Madagascar to the glaciers of Antarctica and the Australian coral reefs and have a first hand appreciation of how precious and how vulnerable these biodiverse ecosystems are'. So that's OK then! 

Seriously, if you think I am making this up, read the online brochure. 

Link 'The World' Online Brochure'

The concept of creating permanent dwellings at sea is termed 'seasteading'. In international waters, you are outside territory claimed by any government. The website says that, when asked where you come from, you can reply 'the world'. You can kid yourself that, in Theresa May's words, you are 'a citizen of nowhere'. In truth it is a somewhat muted and illusory freedom. The cruising industry is highly regulated. The passengers might not be tied to a jurisdiction but the ships are, and I daresay that while the  owners are free to underpay the poor sods that have to cater to every whim of the well-heeled mariners, there is some control on their ability to make people walk the plank when their bar bills go unpaid. 

Not your typical Channel Ferry Cabin.

Far be it from me to suggest that it sounds more like a well-appointed prison, walled by the sea, with all of the social disadvantages of village life and only the odd opportunity for an outing on day-release. No matter; the concept appears to be financially attractive enough for ‘The World’ to have spawned floating imitators.

At the other end of the spectrum of shipboard living is ‘Freewinds’. This is the flagship of 'Sea Org', owned and sailed by the extremist wing of the late L. Ron Hubbard’s spectacularly bonkers Church of Scientology movement. Tom Cruise was probably their most famous adherent. 

Freewinds

The Church describes it as ‘the beginning of a voyage to all eternity’. Wikipedia describes it as a ‘kind of space navy, melding SF space ideas with Earthbound naval ones’. One idea was that, when the world governments collapsed, the Scientologists could swoop in and take over.  Apparently, for the time being, the bonkerati are simply trying to achieve 'Operating Thetan Level 8‘ but to many it looks more like a chance to evade scrutiny while pursuing another and more masochistic form of self-indulgence. 

To me, the crew sound like a seaborne equivalent of Opus Dei flagellants. And it looks as if many of them have come to agree. The Navy is shrinking and most of their hearty shipmates are now land based, albeit still wearing their cosplay naval uniforms!

In fact, the only thing that could entice me to spending time on ‘The World’, would be the offer of a trip on Freewinds as an alternative. Mind you, to their credit, they have achieved the seemingly impossible. In their nightmare millenarianism, they have made a world run by the likes of Trump, Putin and Johnson, seem like a better bet. 

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