Monday, August 26, 2013

Filipino Mariners, my Inspiration for the Traveller Game

I was first exposed to the lives of Filipino Mariners when I worked for one of the largest seaman manpower companies of the Philippines as a 3d Artist, Magsaysay. We were attempting to make a computer-based training game, so we interviewed some seamen and sat in the training lectures. 20% of International merchant mariners are Filipinos, who work as Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs) for what would be $2,500USD a month for contracts of up to a season to a few years. W

We were able to access also the books and material that they were required to master. I don't remember the details, but what I came away with was that it was mostly Organization (how the ship and its elements are organized, procedures and protocols) and Safety procedures. The procedures were dizzying because each country had their own.

Note that much of what I learned about it mirror the Risks, Pay-offs, and help detail Assumptions of Crewman Life.

The Economics of It. 
To Filipinos the wages for being a mariner crewman is that of a regional manager and high level executive but it is a career that they cannot sustain for very long over time. They payed very well compared to the typically less than $200USD/mo to be a factory worker.

Note that in the Philippines, such a relative would be supporting his other relatives in their studies and schooling. Typically one OFW will support his entire extended Family and have nothing remaining for themselves (and it happens often enough that many uplift themselves and many piss-away the money).

Its a skilled professions that takes less time to finish, they incur less debt and can quickly pay it off in a couple of years. It is also a dangerous profession, as the news can indicate (pirates, collisions, and accidents) and those who can imagine how it is to be caught in a storm while enroute.

Other than the hazards of working in a ship, Filipino Seamen have a serious problem with Hepa B, an STD (Sex Ed is severely backwards in the Philippines, I think it should be part of Mariner training) I also want to note that the maintenance cost of the meds is $200USD a month, if they stop being Seamen they can be assured of a lifespan that ends at 50-60. I don't know the statistic for the other STDs but if Hepa B is any indicator it may not be very good. We have purely capitalist medical services here in the Philippines, many will die and choose a "brave" death in using the money for the meds to pay for education - spirituality and family is the remaining comfort for many.

There is also some barriers regarding Filipino employment and advancement , having a reputation and status "servants to the wealthy countries" there are many instances where a seasoned and veteran Filipino seaman will not get a higher position because of his background. (i know of the journalists that sit on this information, because its just bad for business in such a precarious hold over the industry). So they swallow their pride and keep at it, suffering in silence. They would rather have their children study Law, Medicine, and Engineering than follow their footsteps in an industry that limits their advancement.

How I apply it to Traveller
 You will notice these Factors In my Traveller universe, as RETHE an overpopulated (30 Billion) and poor System exports most of the Mariner (Fodder) to all the great Shipping. In an advanced Technocracy, the lack of education of Rethe makes them second class susceptible to the Corporate Patron-Client indoctrination into their loyal (and expendable) corporate assets.

In a game about Trade and Merchants, Crushing Poverty and its effects are something I like drawing stories and inspiration from. For those in Poor States, Building Common Good is next to impossible and those few fortunate States fighting to maintain Common Good, is a battle they may slowly be losing (which natural results in Exodus of all the best and brightest). What can several generations build, can be so easily lost.

The problem of being an OFW is also an interesting one because it deals with National/State/Cultural Loyalties and Identity vs Economic Realities. In current events, it doen't look good because it seems as RETHE grows and gets wealthier from their remittances and its market being developed, there is a growing resentment. There are many factors to this, part of the reason Local administrators want to shift the blame of their corruption to "Cultural Issues".  

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