Will Rules Replace Thought?
IS THIS THE SOCIETY WE WANT? IT WHAT WE DESERVE? IS IT WHAT THE OLIGARCHY DESIRES?
Dennis L. Blewitt, JD
For quite some time I have been trying to think of an example of the toxic changes brought to our people by the paranoid, corrupt, ignorant, selfish, and non-thinking people that the society has propagated. I weary of hearing “It’s a new world since 9/11.” Bullshit! The world is the same, the perception is different. Our society has been reordered around fear and loathing. 4 decades ago, I was worked on a study which sought to assess the impact of programmed learning on student decision making, personal development and learning. The results were unsettling, but powers that be ignored the findings. It was expedient to do so because the greedy corporate rulers wanted to undermine education and profit from its capture. It just had to abolish local control and privatize education after convincing the masses that allowing corporations take a large profit from the public funds is good for us.
I finally found a great example. It involves a flight on Southwest Airlines which was ruined by the flight crew after a pleasant visit with my daughter and my grandchildren. It was in stark contrast to experiences on European carriers. I have to disclose that I was somewhat provocative after the first insults as an experiment to see what would happen next. I was shocked by the contrast between Southwest and European carriers. I need to preface this by disclosing some assumptions I make in my analysis.
The study of programed learning disclosed that the sample taught with program learning had no capacity to think in terms of a continuum. Everything was good or bad, yes or no, black or white. There was no gray to confuse them. Things had to be dichotomous only. Consequently, the subjects were threatened with any non-dichotomous alternatives. Imagine the scene at NORAD with such people in control. A blip appears and they have to decide if there is an attack and if we should launch. There can be no possible alternative cause such as a glitch, a programming mistake, a false positive, or Santa driving his sleigh on Christmas Eve, which NORAD diligently reports annually.
Then, there is the Stanford Prison Project. Funded by the US Navy, in which students were divided into guards and prisoners. The experiment had to be prematurely terminated when some of the guards tortured the prisoners after a few days of applying authoritative methods to their fellow students who were designated as prisoners. The experiment was duplicated with the British Prison experiment. The researchers published a rather lengthy paper. The paper ended with, “The answer to tyranny is not to distrust or to fear power. It was this that created problems for the Guards’ regime and for the Commune. Rather, the answer is to use group power responsibly, democratically and in defence of humane values. In this way, we can act together to resist tyranny – either one imposed by others or one made by ourselves.” However, there is a whole section of the population who believe machismo action will mask their inadequacies. Such was the case of the bullying Southwest attendant. He had authority, but no reasoning powers or sense of proportion.
Related to this is that people believe first and then they see. Signs, symbols, senses, and understanding are formed by our beliefs. They exist because of a construction within society. Their beliefs then dictate what they see and how they interpret things. If you believe that people are terrorists, then one will see them as such. This has been the subject of studies on eye-witnesses and behavior of juries. Rather than seeing friends, neighbors, potential allies or helpers, we now see threats. Quite often the data disputes these constructed realities, but fear always trumps data, common sense and actual circumstances. The whole transportation industry is trained to view its customers as threats, not assets. They no longer try to please, but deal out of fear. Since they are potential enemies, it is justified to treat the fare paying passengers as cattle and harass or punish them if they don’t bow down to ill-trained, ignorant help.
Another observation I have is that the concept of competition has been perverted. I can remember when I used to choose flights based upon the menu. Braniff had the best. Also, there was competition in service. Every airline had a cadre of considerate caring attendants, who believed that their job was to provide a pleasant flight experience not ride herd on passengers packed like prisoners of to Auschwitz. They were trained to handle various situations and did so confidently. Rarely was there the need for outside intervention. Additionally, they were friendly and helpful, not authoritarian and dictatorial. They were trained to recognize medical problems and try to help. Not Now. Airline employees don’t’ care. Their job is to enforce rules, no matter how insane. Orders must be obeyed, or else. Just remember 9-11. That is what happens when and if trust is not ruled by fear, loathing and paranoia.
The reaction to the World Trade Center incident has been interpreted as a license to push us around, violate the Constitution, abolish our rights and treat us like the enemy. Courtesy is a sign of weakness and must not be countenanced. Compassion and understanding is for another time. Things must change, and so they have. It has created a cadre of bullies. If we question stupidity and question authority, we are subjected to sanction and the exercise of power equivalent to shooting a mouse with a cannon. People with any power have become brutal oppressors, hated in the world and virtually guaranteeing perpetual war by mistreatment of our “enemies.” Abu Grab, which shocked the conscious of civilized America has become the accepted behavior of the power wielders. It now defines us as a citizenry and as a nation. Habeas Corpus and presumption of innocence are quaint myths we teach children like we do about Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. We, as a Nation lock people up indefinitely without any safeguards if they are perceived as an enemy. We execute perceived enemies without any due process. We have become arrogant, intolerant, suspicious and splintered. We murder from afar without any qualms. We have gone from the home of the brave to the sanctuary for cowardly and zealous water-boarders, war criminals, sadists, and neo-Nazis. Our compassion has been replaced with disdain, fear and anger. The people have morphed into a self-centered, fearful, jealous, back-stabbing competing mass, where there is only dichotomous choice and humanity is not an option. There is no room for compromise.
Which brings me to my Southwest story. My health, as many of you know, has restricted my activities. I had pneumonia, Legionnaire’s, Pseudomonas aerogunosis, a-fib, diabetes, Gas gangrene, cellulitis, anemia, MRSA and heart problems. I use oxygen quite often, but only at high altitudes. I carry an oximeter and only use oxygen as needed, not all the time. When I boarded my flight,, I had just walked to the end of the concourse and oxygen level was low. My cane didn’t help my balance. I could also tell that my blood sugar was low, which affects behavior. When we boarded, the attendant made a point of informing us that one had to sit by a window to use a concentrator. I requested some orange juice because of my blood sugar. He ignored me. After waiting a while to take off because the flight was overbooked and the passengers had to move about to find places for their carry-on baggage, we were airborne. At that time I needed to use my rescue inhaler and was weak from low blood sugar and anoxia. When I got up to use the bathroom, I believe that even a well-trained chimp could tell I was having problems. I couldn’t breathe, I was dizzy and somewhat disoriented. I took out my rescue inhaler and was rudely ordered to return to my seat by the flight attendant. I explained that I had to stand to medicate myself and he informed me that he didn’t care because the regulations stated that no passengers could stand in the forward rest-room area. I disgustedly threw away my inhaler in protest and returned to my seat.
Now, I admit I get cranky when my oxygen is low (62%) and blood sugar low (about 65). When he came to my seat, I expected him to inquire if he could assist me. Instead, he informed me that he had called for security to meet me at the gate and arrest me for violating the regulations and throwing my inhaler away. I was non-plussed. He then asked my name so that they could get the arrest warrant before we landed. I wearily told him in street language to engage in an act of self- fornication. He told me to stay in the plane when it landed and left to use the phone. A passenger pointed out that I was bleeding profusely from a wound I received from the bathroom door and notified the attendant. He all but gloated.
I would assume even the dullest of the population knows that toilets carry infections. Common courtesy would have required the average non-Nazi to inquire why I was bleeding and do something to prevent infection. Instead, he put on rubber gloves and got a bottle of something and sprayed and wiped the area on which I had bled, ignoring me. He did this every 2 or three minutes until a passenger suggested he do something about the bleeding. He then brought me my orange juice and obtained a Band-Aid of almost microscopic proportions and threw it at me. I had no help putting it on and the bleeding soaked through and continued to drip in the armrest. Finally, the other attendant got some gauze and tried to patch me up, or at least catch the blood. It was déjà vu all over again. The last time I bled, I was jailed and then re-hospitalized. Now, I was destined to be detained by the TSA and turned over to the US Marshall’s service for violating some Federal law. However, I noticed the nurse type attendant discussing things with the other attendant. The nice one said I would have a wheel chair to meet me and get a proper bandage. However, that didn’t happen. Instead, he followed me out of the plane and telling me I could not leave. This was two hours after the incident. He waited that long to extract his punishment.
When the safety speech was made at the beginning of the flight, the nurse-type attendant was introduced as a new employee. Thus, she was over-ruled by the dichotomous dictatorial attendant. When the plane landed, he ordered me to stay on board. I asked if I was under arrest and was told no. I then proceeded out of the plane. When I got to the terminal gate, I was stopped by an employee and told not to leave. The attendant arrived and ordered me to stay, like one would a dog. I asked him again if I was under arrest and he said no. I then left. Finally some sort of supervisor stopped my wife and informed her that I was put on a list and there would be an incident report. I had still not been asked how I felt or if anything was wrong, although I assume they may have discerned something when I informed the nurse type my oxygen level was 62.
I believe that the second attendant, who was a paramedic explained my condition to the prison guard attendant, who ignored her analysis. I violated a rule and did not obey. Rules were rules and I had violated them Therefore, I should be punished. He had authority and I had questioned it. When my wife questioned being put on the list, she was told that things changed with 9-11. That event changed more than some laws. It changed our society. We are no longer the helping neighbor, but the conqueror. We no longer give the benefit of the doubt, but deal with everyone as an enemy or threat. We have no compassion, only fear. The persons in charge mask incompetence with authority. Hopefully, some will write SW Airlines and passengers groups and demand change. We don’t deserve to be herded. We don’t deserve to be treated as prisoners. We demand to be treated as customers. We demand civility and respect. We expect help, not harassment from employees. We expect employees to be trained, not just instructed. We expect those responsible for our lives to be conscious of health problems. We expect to be treated with dignity, not disdain. We expect rules to be evaluated in context. Is this too much to ask of a person who takes our money in exchange for a service? We demand that a rule not be considered more important than a life or a medical condition.