Germanwings 9525 = Al-Qaeda Triumphs Again
The tragedy occurred because one pilot was allowed to stay in the cockpit, and prevent entry from anyone else.
. One time, just after 9/11, I was coming home
from the Canada ,
and it was one bizarre flight. The
flight crew brought our food, late at night, and then disappeared to sulk,
never to return. We all sat there with
our trays for an hour or so, and then began shifting them into bulkheads and
under seats and into the aisles and so on; the attendants weren’t coming back. This wasn’t prior to any kind of strike or
major job action or anything. I still
don’t know what was up. But what’s so
chilling to think of now was how the Air Canada pilot (was he alone?) came on
during that inky night at 35 000 feet or more and embarked on this long and
incomprehensible diatribe about things in general. He invoked Christ ( U.S. Preston—“Presto”—‘no
government is good but if we just follow God it’ll be great!!’--Manning, seated
a few rows behind me, was perhaps comforted, but I sure as heck wasn’t). The pilot talked about holidays and work and
unfairness and so on, but I do remember he didn’t say anything explicit to
explain what was going on behind him, as the flight crew basically vanished and
refused to work. He definitely didn’t support
them or explain anything. He really only
referred to himself, not crew or passengers. But he talked religion and fumed
and rambled disconnectedly as though he were playing a video game or poking a
mobile device at the same time. I
suppose he was—I hope he was. To be
truthful, my most exact recollection of this flight was exchanging looks with
my flight partner, looking up and around in the darkened cabin (I still have
the beige mental images, to be sure), and just thinking to myself (praying?),
“Christ, I wish he’d just shut up, because the longer he keeps talking and
keeps working himself into this lather, the more dangerous it gets for all of
us and the more likely it will be for all of us that something catastrophic
could happen because of his distractedness and anger.” Only when he quit rambling, and nothing
radical ensued, did I start to breathe easier. Thank goodness I didn’t have a heart condition
and was flying, say, to see family for an almost last time—the Air Canada
pilot’s irresponsibility could have caused a death in and of itself. Was there anyone with him? Maybe there was and it finally caused him to
glance over and take a nod and settle down.
Or maybe there wasn’t and he took advantage of his godlike moments to
berate the world in general as we soared through the black night in his
hands. Something like the Germanwings
flight sure makes you recollect and ponder.
Abstract: Fear and paranoia enabled the conditions and killing of the passengers on Germanwings 9525; in honour of the victims of that flight, and for all future fliers, sensible policies, that do not replace reasonable prudence with get-tough politically-expedient reactions and expressions of fear, nor place sole power in the hands of One person or agency, should be enacted.
Surely I’m far from the first (1000, 10 000?) people to make this simple point, but fear and paranoia and obsession with “security” appear to have led to another disaster and mass loss of human life. That the 9/11 attackers de facto created a policy that made much of the world place collective fates in the hands of one extreme or potentially wingnut person no doubt gratifies them immensely in their exquisite afterlives—surely such terror, or infidel reduction, was key amongst their goals.
The tragedy occurred because one pilot was allowed to stay in the cockpit, and prevent entry from anyone else.
(I’m a little uncomfortable that now, barely two--three days after the crash, we’re being asked to trust officials who tell us it was an intentional downing by a sole-acting young co-pilot. A little more time for the public revelation of evidence and something emulating some sort of legal process would be more reassuring.)
I’m struck by how former pilots and aviation talking heads are expressing shock and amazement that pilots would do something so horrible, when of course there are many examples of pilots embracing their godlike roles and taking many lives other than their own into their hands not for professional reasons, but for their own personal use and/or destruction (Ethiopian Airlines 702 and Egypt Air 990 are a couple of recent examples amongst numerous instances). On CTV News, an “aviation expert” named Phyl Durdey offered: “You know, who would think that, y’know, an aircraft would be put into a descent by the co-pilot?” I can’t speak for Phyl, but I don’t care if there’s 4 passengers or 400—I sure wouldn’t want to be on board an aircraft if one of the pilots found out that, say, he was being canned, or his co-pilot was sleeping with his wife, or something. Phyl seems to attribute godlike non-humanity to pilots, and with reference to the black box in the German pilot’s head, Phyl’s views are terrifyingly ironic, indeed.
(And Phyl, dude, if you’re out there, flying somewhere, I was initially with you. I really didn’t buy that a pilot, wishing to commit suicide and mass murder, would do it so slowly and deliberately. I would have thought he’d just have done a nosedive. So far, we have only what “officials” tell us—heavy breathing and no contact—and for me that’s not total circumstantial incrimination enough—but that does not take away from the fact that there have been numerous instances of pilots taking themselves and their passengers down with them in recent years. Dan Zorg has been acquainted with several pilots, and one very close pilot acquaintance in particular has expressed greater mystification than this post does.)
As with most people, this crash caused me to reflect on some of my own flying experiences. I remember being becalmed at the sleepy little
airport for hours on a bright sunny morning.
I remember being young—not that young—and being on an Air New Zealand
flight. . .somehow, and surely not through anything anyone said with intention,
the flight crew must have learned that it was my birthday, and an elderly pilot
came right down to my seat and asked me if I’d like to see the flight
deck. Imagine (!). I’m pretty sure I can remember, not just
imagine, times when the flight deck was actually open during the flight and I
could glimpse it. Dusseldorf
Or then there’s good ol’ Air
How in the world could a responsible company, or government, allow a situation in which a pilot, who could experience a medical difficulty (say, cabin depression?) be allowed to be in sole “control”? The news says that someone who tries the correct password from outside the cabin can try again in five minutes if the password doesn’t go through. Can a correct password be forgotten? Is five minutes not enough to crash a plane? Unbelievable.
This is what fear and paranoia have done to us: cause us to place godlike powers in the hands of one person. In order to act tough against our fears, we seek out fear and establish rules to protect ourselves from fears that, ironically, can lead to our destruction. In no sane jurisdiction would it be possible for one person to completely shut out the world and take the lives of others—this is what the 9/11 pilots did, and their actions constitute the response much of the world came up with in turn—a carbon copy of the 9/11 killers’ gambit. Yet in the Germanwings case, of course, allegedly, unlike with that of the 9/11 pilots, there wasn’t even any need for accomplices with box cutters; the only things required, like Chinese or North Korean self-censorship, were abstract--generalized fear and paranoid public representatives, infinite mistrust, and the infantile ability to flick a switch shutting out the real world of/to other human beings.
Sure fine, I’m all for security; I have no wish to die on an airplane. I’ll stand in line forever—whatever. I just want public representatives to be sensible. I’ll stand in an airport forever and take off my shoes and belt and hat and have my computer sprayed and my travel toothpaste taken away and go through a body scanner and all that—sure fine; but I expect public representatives not to endanger my life by putting in place measures that transfer godlike powers to sole individuals who can never be held accountable for their actions. If the German pilot (is guilty, and if he lived), I wouldn’t want to act like God myself and determine that he should be killed; I’d want to keep him alive for his life so that he could be studied and so that he could ponder his actions until fate took those powers away from him. I think it’s fair to say that, if most of
Conservative caucus had their choice, if the pilot had lived, they’d have
killed him with capital punishment. Only
problem is, they wouldn’t even have had that option because of their fear and
paranoia that enabled him in the first place—the Conservatives elected to place
sole power in the hands of one pilot (it might be said that many of them are
used to that, metaphorically if not literally, as with Presto). The Germanwings flight could have happened
over the Canadian Shield; the deaths of the Germanwings passengers could have
happened to anyone on a plane flown by a Canadian carrier—all because the
Harper government, cherishing its fear and paranoia about someone (other than God
or the pilot God) gaining access to the cockpit, chose to endanger passengers
on the flights of Canadian carriers by ensuring that there could be no God but the Pilot in the cockpit—not rational or
life-cherishing, capable crew--or even passengers--just the Pilot/God. Canada
Well, as I say, the terrorists won again. A statesman once said, “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” By fearing fear itself, and distrusting one another and enacting ludicrous policies that can put One and only One person in charge, we opened the door for One to perversely and inexplicably take the lives of others.
I was going to draw in other political and domestic issues in this post, but when one writes about something like this, there’s no way to end (because you’re talking about people whose lives have ended, unlike yours, so far), and there are always those who will say “you’re exploiting a tragedy.” Well, if I had brought in the other issues or shaped a different message, it would have been a bit harder to fling that charge. Or maybe easier. How many 9/11s (no, not hijackings) were there before 9/11?
That’s right, 0 (until I stand corrected). But the world largely reacted with policies that insisted that One godlike person should take control, and that does reflect a lot of our yearnings, whether that One is a person in a uniform or a generalized kind of overlord agency (or obviously a religious proxy/prophet). And obviously the exact wishes of the terrorists.
I’ve never been fond of flying. I usually have to overcome physical and physiological fears and work my way into a kind of philosophical-mental zone. You know how they say that, when you’re about to die, your whole life flashes in front of your eyes? I thought that was just a phrase—a believable phrase—but just a phrase. But I know it’s true because I’ve had that dream on airplanes and on airplanes alone—first pet, mother, etc. You never have dreams like that on the ground.
Long ago I had some fears allayed by reading the French doctor and politician, Bernard Kouchner, saying that dying in a plane crash is probably a great way to go. I’d never thought of that, I must say. I haven’t looked up that comment, but basically his attitude was that, hey, you’ve only got a few minutes left, and then it’s all over. Contrasted with months or years of pain through innumerable possible illnesses, involving not just me but anyone associated with me, I’ve thought, yeah, the guy has a point. Flying over
I subsequently haven’t necessarily thought: “could we land on that spike if we
had to?,” but rather, “if we go on that spike, it’s done and done, full stop,
and a few minutes of terror may be a better way to go than the one the One has
in store for me (and in any case, I may die of something else first).”
But this Germanwings 9525 is different—it’s different because our fear and paranoia-- pace “Phyl Durdey”--allowed us to put in place a situation in which, if a remedy were even possible, it was taken out of the hands of pilots, crew, passengers, and ground control experts, and all given over to exploitative “get-tough” politicians who dictated that there could only be One in a sealed God-only zone at the front of an airplane. I have a feeling that that feeling is a little bit like what the 9/11 “pilots” felt. Smug and in control, never having to answer to other humans for their actions that would be hailed by a “divine” being in the afterlife, ultimately blissfully unconcerned with a world that involved real human beings while they themselves lived.
The emotions of the people on that flight—or Egypt 990 or Swissair 111 or or or—are unimaginable and uncontactable—utterly unapproachable—but some things are, even without divine approbation, certain: amidst all the chaos and screaming and terror, surely people’s lives flashed before their eyes, bringing up the most vivid and important and crucial mental images—a kind of about-to-be-dead homage to the possibly still living. Surely people embraced one another in the most basic human ways. In my most tearful moments about this crash, I’d like to think that some of the German high school exchange students were able to express for the first and last times nascent desires or expressions thereof that might or would have sustained them throughout their lives, had they had those lives to live.
I really think we owe it to the fear and terror that those people experienced NOT to create policies based on fear and paranoia which allow sole, godlike powers to be placed in just one person’s hands. It may be that “the Lord works in mysterious ways,” but the generalized interests of “security” should not be allowed to jeopardize the lives of individuals who may be subject to incomprehensible, cruel, and sometimes, if humans are in charge, avoidable fates.