Sunday, July 03, 2011

Air Travel

I just got back from Florida and am musing over the ordeal at the airport. It took roughly twenty minutes to get through "security," the U.S. version of "terrify the citizen until he begs to be violated." The usual invasions of privacy ensued: the dumping of everything in the bin, the removal of shoes, the entrance through the mysterious machine (how do I know I'm not being bombarded with death rays? Or obedience rays?), but the folks in Fort Lauderdale have added some refinements. Besides the above, travellers were forced to go through their luggage and remove everything containing any amount of liquid. I keep in my overnight case tiny sample bottles of shampoo, shower gel, and so on. Had to open my carry-on, find the case, unzip, root through, pick them out, and add them to the plastic bin. Was I then allowed to walk through the metal bower? Oh, no: I first had to empty my pockets, even of paper, to show the guards. I removed the Ativan I had in an envelope in one pocket, but forgot I had put my checked luggage receipt in the other. When I went through, it caused not a ripple, so what does that tell you? Maybe that the "take everything out" order is just a ruse to demonstrate the state's power and the citizens' lack of it.
Was the ordeal over after that? Nope: I was then forced to stand on a metal platform facing some kind of screen, with my feet apart and my hands over my head until, I guess, I was zapped with more death rays (or something). Finally finished, I gathered up my things and limped in my stocking feet to a non-too-convenient chair to put my shoes back. (I wear comfortable walking shoes--read "sneakers"--to travel, and I'll be damned, as some have advised me, to wear slip-ons just to accommodate the wardens.)
What struck me hard yesterday was the lack of protest among the people who, presumably, had paid a pretty penny for their airfare--stowaways don't go through "security." Everybody moved like sheep through the line that suggested so strongly those in a prison (thanks to my friend, Jim W., for this analogy). They all demonstrated docility and faces remained almost uniformly blank (don't let the screws know what you're thinking). However and incredibly, a few of the perps (guilty until proven innocent, of course) actually smiled and thanked their tormentors.
Okay, there was one exception: yep, I was pretty vocal about the outrages so many so easily accept. I made a number of loud remarks--some with vulgarities--which were ignored by the stone-faced examiners, who have surely been trained to ignore protest unless it gets physical. What's truly scary is that, aside from a startled glance or two, my fellow passengers reacted the same way.
It seems the propensity of just about everybody, no matter on which side of the political sty they wallow, is to point with alarm at situations like this and invoke Orwell. Such a bore; I suspect some of them have never even read 1984 and/or that they believe that's all he ever wrote. With that ponderous and self-serving aside, though, I'm going to do it here. For comparison with our travel ordeals, I advise readers to check out good ol' Eric Blair and his harrowingly prescient prose, especially in the scene where Winston first lands in the Ministry holding cell. Should make your blood run cold.
And here, thanks to Jim W.'s blog, "The Chestnut Tree" (what a tie-in title!), are some related thoughts. He writes:
"...Anthony Gregory gives a succinct summary of the New Paradigm:
We are not really surrendering our gels, forgoing our bottled water, or taking off our shoes for our own good. That’s all a ruse. The TSA is an agency whose function, if not intended purpose, is to condition obedience and subservience into the population. It is an arm of the federal police state and cannot be reformed into anything else. It must be abolished totally and nothing short of that will bring liberty back to air travel."
Gregory goes on: "Even more fundamentally, the media and talking heads — certainly the conservative opponents of TSA — forget why we have a terrorist threat, such as it is, in the first place: Because the U.S. government is waging imperial wars abroad, slaughtering children, propping up corrupt regimes, overthrowing governments, playing geopolitical favorites, cutting people off of international trade, and generally behaving as the biggest bully in the world. The blowback terrorism that results can never be stamped out so long as the wars continue...."
And when will they ever end? When our aggression does, I guess, and that bodes ill for anything but more--and worse--of the same.



At July 04, 2011 1:28 PM, Blogger Jonathan Versen said...

Hi Mimi, I haven't traveled by air in close to 20 years, so I've wondered what it's like nowadays. When I was a kid I really enjoyed going on an airplane.

At July 05, 2011 3:06 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

Well, kiddo, you won't enjoy it now unless you like being regarded as a criminal.

At July 06, 2011 9:15 AM, Anonymous ms_xeno said...

It's rare for me to be happy about being stone-cold broke, but in this case I'll make an exception. :/

At July 07, 2011 3:05 AM, Blogger Mimi said...

Ha! Good one, Ms Xeno.


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