Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Four Spot-on Responses to the United Airlines Debacle

As I'm sure you're aware, United Airlines is facing widespread criticism after video surfaced of Dr. David Dao, a 69-year-old Vietnamese-American man being forcibly dragged off a plane by security officers on Sunday, after the airline overbooked the flight and then demanded some passengers disembark.

When no one volunteered to get off the Chicago-to-Louisville flight, Dao and three others were selected to be forced off the plane. Dao protested, saying he was a doctor who needed to see patients at a hospital in Kentucky the following morning. Multiple Chicago Department of Aviation security officers then wrestled him out of his seat and dragged him down the aisle as fellow passengers screamed and videoed the incident on their cell phones. Dao, who was bloodied by the forced removal, attempted to run back onto the plane. He was then forcibly removed a second time.

Following are four responses to this disturbing incident that I find erudite, helpful and, well, just spot-on. Perhaps you will to.

My bottom line with big corporations like United or any other airline (or other entities like them, including many big religious entities) is that they are not there to serve people. They exist to exploit people.

And so whatever they do, even when they're "serving" us, should be met with suspicion, and, when it's grossly exploitative and abusive, with resistance.

Government is supposed to be there to curb this behavior on the part of big conglomerates. The American suspicion of "big government" while big, exploitative corporations are given a free pass by the same Americans who want to starve the beast of government, is amazingly blind. It reflects the bizarre American presupposition, rooted in perversion of Calvinist ideas, that the rich are blessed by God and the poor are cursed – and so the rich should be idolized, fawned over, adulated, given the benefit of the doubt.

As Augustine taught in his City of God, government is necessary to curb the violence and rapacity of human beings whose tendency is always, in collectives, to act like beasts towards each other. If government will not defend the poor against the rich, the weak against the strong, then, given that tendency, Augustine thought human societies would descend into barbarism.

As we Americans have done. And the relentless attack on government from Reagan forward – by which people are most harmed by weak government and uncurbed corporate might – plays no small role in getting us to that place.

William D. Lindsey
via Facebook
April 11, 2017

You are not the corporation. You are the human. It is okay for the corporation to lose a small portion of what it has in terrifying overabundance (money, time, efficiency) in order to preserve what a human has that cannot ever be replaced (dignity, humanity, conscience, life). It is okay for you to prioritize your affinity with your fellow humans over your subservience to the corporation, and to imagine and broker outcomes based on this ordering of things. It is okay for the corporation to lose. It will return to its work of churning the living world into dead sand presently.

– Albert Burneko
Excerpted from "The Corporation Does Not Always Have to Win"
The Concourse
April 10, 2017

When we watch the video of the event something in us says, “That’s not right.” Pay attention to that feeling. It is our conscience speaking. That is what prompted the widespread outrage online – not simply the fact that people who have been bumped from flights share in the man’s frustration but the immorality of a system that leads to a degradation of human dignity. If corporate rules and the laws of capitalism lead to this, then they are unjust rules and laws. The ends show that the means are not justified.

When you get down to it, like everything else in America today, this is about the haves and the have-nots. If you’re in first class, you don’t need to worry about shock troops coming and beating you until you get out of the seat that you bought. If you’re not in first class, you’re on your own. If you’re in the top one percent on Wall Street, you turn a tidy profit off the whole ordeal. This is what class warfare looks like.

. . . Maybe the worst thing about that video is how completely believable it was for anyone who’s flown over the last few years. We’ve all experienced the awfulness of flying, and we recognize it as maybe the most literal manifestation of America’s current class situation: the few sit up front in comfort while the many experience more and more discomfort in the back of the plane. We lose inches of legroom, we’re charged more and more for our carry-ons, and we’re offered less and less in return. This situation isn’t going to get any better until we stand up and demand that things change. This isn’t about one airline – hell, it’s not even about air travel. It’s about class in America, and it’s time to demand our fair share.

– Paul Constant
Excerpted from "The United Story Isn’t About
Customer Service. It’s About Class Warfare
Civic Skunk Works
April 10, 2017

Related Off-site Links:
Uproar Grows After United Airlines Brutally Drags Paying Customer Off Overbooked FlightDemocracy Now! (April 11, 2017).
Dr. David Dao's United Nightmare Could Be Yours – Jeff Yang (CNN, April 11, 2017).
Now Reporters Are Smearing That 69-Year-Old, Bloodied United Passenger – Peter Hasson (The Daily Caller, April 11, 2017).
People Are Defending United Passenger After Reports Emerge of His "Troubled Past" and CEO Calls Him "Belligerent" – Kate Taylor (Yahoo! News, April 11, 2017).
United Airlines Lost a Billion Dollars This Morning – Kevin Drum (Mother Jones, April 11, 2017).
You're Not Mad at United Airlines; You're Mad at America – Shane Ryan (Paste, April 10, 2017).
Why Should Police Help United Airlines Cheat Its Customers? – Brian Doherty (Reason, April 10, 2017).
Call The United Incident What It Is: Police Violence – Nick Wing (The Huffington Post, April 11, 2017).
Why Airlines Want to Make You Suffer – Tim Wu (The New Yorker, December 26, 2014)

UPDATES: United Airlines Did Not Have the Legal Right to Refuse Service to the Doctor They Dragged Off the Plane – Cynthia Than (Inc., April 12, 2017).
Capitalism Is Violence: United Airlines’ Forcible Removal of a Passenger Exposed the Everyday Violence That Keeps Capitalism Running – Matt Bruenig (Jacobin, April 12, 2017).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
A Lose/Lose Situation
In a Blow to Democracy, U.S. Supreme Court Affirms Corporate Personhood
Quote of the Day – June 30, 2016
At the Mall of America, a Necessary Disruption to "Business as Usual"
Quote of the Day – May 4, 2013

"Life is Not a Corporate Commodity" image: Michael J. Bayly.

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