UPSIDE DOWN PRIORITIES
One month and one week.
Two major news events. One major technological failure.
Russia invades Crimea and seems poised to take over the Ukraine
Malaysia Flight 370 disappears from the face of the earth.
We save our documents on our computers. The NSA can monitor our phones, e-mails, and every other electronic device we own. Yet, the aircraft industry has not put into service cockpit data in the “cloud” from all airplanes. Nor has it enabled the black box to be replaced by constant cockpit recordings between pilots and crew or hijackers and pilots and crew.
I have waited this past month to try and make sense of both the priority with which the media has covered these two stories, as well as to make sense of the reaction of the victims of both events. As for the stone-age mentality of the aircraft industry, that is possibly the most egregious fact that has come to our attention.
It would be easy to compare Russia’s invasion of the Crimea and potentially the Ukraine with the Iraq invasion of Kuwait. It would be easy to say we, The United States, formed a coalition to liberate Kuwait because of oil, yet chose to issue silly sanctions on Russia that focus on prohibiting travel by high-ranking Russian officials to the United States. The reality is that there is an oil issue in the Crimea, not to mention a water route that is precious to a land-locked Russia.
Easy but not quite accurate.
Oil and waterways were not the reason. Our government decided to take the high road for some reason and not engage in a confrontation with our former arch-enemy. We played a quiet game of chicken, though for the moment there is no winner.
For days, weeks, and over a month now, the media has relentlessly covered every nuance and hypothesis of the missing plane. And, when there was nothing new to report (which was the case most of the time) we were treated to images of grief-stricken relatives crying about the “souls” aboard that Malaysian aircraft, or accusing the Malaysian government of lying and withholding information.
Russia’s daring military incursions were given short shrift in the media. If one really believed in conspiracy theories, one could imagine that Mr. Putin hijacked that Malaysian aircraft so the world would focus on the biggest aviation mystery since Amelia Ehrhart vanished in flight.
But here’s the thing that I have been wrestling with since day one of the disappearance of that aircraft. After several days when no one except some rag tag Chinese so-called terror group (undoubtedly incapable of blowing up a balloon) took credit for hijacking or blowing up the plane, there were no announcements from veritable terror groups and no demands for ransom. Which gets me to that elusive emotion called hope fueled by the duplicitous Malaysian government and I might add the Chinese government who refused to give hard facts to the families of the victims.
Hope is what we heard from the more articulate family members of the victims. Closure (a word I deplore as there is no such thing as “closure”) was being denied the families. They needed to see parts of the plane. They wanted to hear the transcript from the plane to the control tower. They insisted that the Malaysian government stop issuing false statements only to amend them later.
In my opinion, hope died on day two, or three or five after the plane disappeared. There had to be something or someone who clearly dealt with the families to relieve them of the belief that their loved ones were possibly alive.
Had the Malaysian government released the transcript, shared information with other countries who volunteered in the search for the plane and black boxes, and stated facts that were proven as they happened , hope would not have been an emotion that tortured the families even more than they were already suffering. Though I detest the word “closure,” a more acceptable definition might be the acceptance of loss without the need for visual proof of wrecked machines or lifeless bodies.
And, lastly, there are two issues that bother me to the point where boarding a plane gives me pause.
One is the question of technology that would make it possible regardless of time to know where a plane went down and what transpired in the cockpit. We have the technical knowledge. Obviously, it is a question of money. After all, how much is a life worth to say, Malaysian Airlines? Is it only the $5,000 per victim they offered the families?
The other issue is lithium.
We are forbidden to bring liquids, knives, guns, cream, razors, lighters, matches and a slew of other objects on board a plane. We are allowed, however, to bring our laptops which of course have lithium batteries. No one ever told us lithium was a potential risk. And yet, apparently it is if a plane carries mega kilos of lithium as cargo without being properly packaged.
In other words, what is the point of security checks, shoe removal, X-Ray machines, profiling and every other supposed caution that is mandatory for human beings who board a plane if those who load cargo do not make certain that it is properly packaged so as not to endanger the plane?
It seems to me that we live in a world that is filled with upside down priorities. Increasingly, borders are ignored, human rights are dismissed, those leaders and professionals we depend on for our very lives are more concerned with the bottom line and we, the people, have simply become lazy or apathetic in demanding change and definitive reaction when atrocities occur far from our shores or at the bottom of an ocean.