Airports are stressful, infantilizing places.
Whenever I’m in one I think of some punitive elementary school. There’s an entire galaxy of largely symbolic rules, and everything associated with us is measured, weighed and timed. And as you stand in line you find yourself worrying about whether you remembered to bring your phone charger. Or your cool sneakers. Or your medicine. And so it goes, and never for a second do you forget that what you are about to do may be the last thing you ever do in your life.
Flying is something of a miracle, and we’re all, at least partially, expecting it to fail. And who can blame us for this suppressed expectation? Any time a plane crashes it’s international news. When the story breaks, people all over the world, those doing dishes or clicking “like,” are wondering just how they would have behaved in their last terrified moments as fire, cloud and sky sped by.
And please don’t forget the terrorists.
They might materialize at any moment. If you forget this, there is a terror alert, like a goal-thermometer on a fundraising marathon, warning you that today, the day you’re to give your first professional speech, the terror alert is ORANGE.
So air transit, even in a best case scenario, is a tense thing.
I imagine that Dr. Dao, the man who was dragged bleeding off a United flight earlier this week, was feeling some of this tension and uncertainty as he waited for his plane to fly him home to Kentucky.
Now we’ve all seen the video, and everybody knows that what took place was wrong.
However, the corporate face of United used the word “re-accommodation” to describe what happened. This is the kind of soft evil that creeps into our lives each day, and then stays there, existing beneath our skin like some sort of bacteria. We know all about over-booking now, and it all reduces to the airline valuing profit over people. This is the corporate way upon which our society functions. What seems to have shocked the microsystem in this case was that nobody would take a material inducement to give up their seat.
And what’s the corporate ethos in such a situation?
And so they dragged him screaming and bleeding from his seat. The law, of course, is behind United. Trapped in this culture where being busy is seen as a sign of status, we’re all so desperate to escape the heaviness of our lives and get to the beach in Veradaro,
that we accept that we might be “re-accommodated” when we buy our tickets. We sign-off on the fact that although we’ve bought a ticket and made all sorts of arrangements contingent on the timing of that flight, we might still lose our seat.
It’s kind of insane. The law allows a corporation to hedge on their services in order for them to maximize profits, even if it’s a ruinous policy for individual consumers. That the law favours corporate growth over human security is nothing new, but this is a particularly vivid example of the amoral structure that pins over our lives.
In the aftermath, Dr. Dao’s was vilified– a tactic minority communities know all too intimately—and the saga, now diffused through late night talk shows, social media and PR flak, is about to replaced by the next meme-worthy event. And still, the corporations will preside over us like gods, and because we believe we need what they offer, we will ignore our own intuition and continue to be subordinate to them, regardless the cost to human dignity and instinct.