Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thoughts on Airports

If I can't be completely self-indulgent in a blog, where can I be completely self-indulgent?

The other day at my son's school Monday assembly an upper form recited Charge of the Light Brigade and the Headmaster commented on the virtue of submission to authority he saw in that poem.

I have never thought of submission to authority as a virtue.  It doesn't feel like a virtue to me.  In submission to authority to me there are only practical questions of consequences.  Will I get caught and go to jail?  A governing principle in my life is that I do not want to go to jail.  Virtue is what the heart longs for, it is the highest and best expression of what we as humans are and can be.  And I don't think that submission to authority is what our hearts at their bravest and best moments really long for.  I think we long for justice.  I know I do.  My sign on 15 October said Justice is Possible.  I believe it and I fight for it.

But my hope and belief seem quite stupid and implausible whenever I enter airports.  Those places stink of fear and unquestioning faith in leaders.  The theater of the liquids is completely a theater of slavery to me as people eye their plastic bags with concern, willingly throw away cosmetics, take off their shoes, separate themselves from all their possessions, submit, submit, submit. Belts, shoes, jackets.  Watching this debacle sickens my soul.  This is the red baboon ass of the State controlling the populace without adequate justification.  And controlling them for the benefit of corporations.  Iran, Iraq, Eurasia, Eastasia.  We submit, we unquestioningly believe bad people want to harm us and we never consider that we perhaps are in fact the bad people.  We never even ask if the theater of the liquids has any evidence or justification.  And up close, it dissolves into ridiculousness.

On Tuesday I flew to Madrid for a one day meeting and I flew Ryan Air.  Ryan Air is the most fascist airline. They make up their own laws and ruthlessly exploit them for profit.

(What I see happening, actually, in all areas of all markets is that, in an effort to increase shareholder returns in a non-growth period, companies describe more and more every little thing that they were already doing before and just add a charge for them.  Like Ryan Air charges you £60 to print out your boarding pass.  The airline business is not going to make anyone a millionaire by continuing the kind of common courtesy or customer service that would include printing out a boarding pass in the price of a ticket!  So that goes, and is charged.  I see this in financial services, telecommunications, transit . . . )


Anyway, I only had the cheaper sandwich bags that didn't reseal at home and I filled up three with containers for an overnight trip, careful that no container had at any time housed more than 100 ml of a liquid.  I decided that my hairspray, solid deodorant and concealer would not be liquids for purposes of compliance.  And of course I was stopped, and of course someone searched my luggage thoroughly, and of course the same person was then tasked with fitting all my three bags of regulation creams into one regulation zip-lock bag.  And in the end, she just shrugged and left half of the things in the bag.  I mean, how ridiculous and removed was that exchange from anything that could be described as fighting terrorism? Kafka is seeping through the walls at every BAA airport and I am pissed because that was another 20 minutes of my life. 

And once you are through airport security, the shopping scene at the airport (which you are forced by time constraints and architecture to inhabit at length), the way it is interwoven, without any human space, all space for commerce.  Having humbled ourselves at the baptismal font of the metal detector, we now have nothing to do but to serve at the altar of capitalism, spend money, it is the only way to express ourselves that we have.  Yet everything at the airport is crap and too expensive.  And every time I go the food looks worse, the clothes look cheaper, yet everything is more expensive.  It is sinister.  To me the airport is a heavy, heavy dose of everything I truly disdain in our civilization.

I have to get to the airport hours and hours before I used to have to and I resent handing over these hours of my life.  I have to worry about the flight the whole day before and check in online.  I have to decide exactly about bags or face a punitive charge.  Time is precious to me.  Time is a gift from God and I do not want to be handing it over to goddamned Ryan air and the incredibly crappy BAA.  They have offloaded their costs to me and I am paying with my life.  And it takes so much time to pay that I scarcely have any energy to even protest this unjust fate.  It is not just the airlines that have offloaded to me.  So have the grocers, the educators, the content providers, the local governments and the national government.  And I am just so completely cognizant of this that it is like an open wound.  I can't read any headline without feeling personally screwed.  Someone gets £8 million as a shareholder of a private government contract job centre that doesn't even work?  That is my goddamned money.  In my own life, I hire people and they work for their money and to me honest work for an honest wage is virtuous.  There is virtue in hard work.  But my government by tax proxy is handing way too much of my money to people who don't even work for it.  This includes Stagecoach, the bus company,  National Rail in its entirety, the private finance initiatives and the airports.  Do you know why these companies are getting so much money from the government?  Because the government is controlled by corporations and money and not by the people.  It makes me sick.  What thrilled me always about being an American, what made me the recipient of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Young Patriot award, was that I was the proud citizen of a fair and free country and I knew it, and I was proud of it.  The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States are sacred documents to me.  Fair and free.  That was the idea when they started it.  You know what, I know certain people like my husband think that I am just the world's biggest complainer, but all the shit going down at airports is just not fair.  It's not fair.  And the State, man, the State has us by the balls when we are in airports, and it keeps the very populace with the means to challenge the state down, it trains them in submission, that submission that is no virtue, that submission which looks to me when I look closely like slavery.   

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