I've been busy with cleaning for, and observing, Passover, so I'm a little late in posting. By now, therefore, you should be familiar with the story of the doctor/passenger who was violently removed from a United Airlines flight as a last resort for making room on an overbooked flight (room, as it turned out, for United employees). If for some strange reason you haven't heard about it, and absolutely if you have not had the experience of seeing footage of this episode, here's a chance to get up to speed.
The linked article is an essay--a very good one--outlining the view that this debacle in customer relations is emblematic of a system that allows a handful of economically and politically powerful people to systematically oppress everyone else. Or, as we like to call it politely, capitalism.
But capitalism wasn't always this oppressive. From the end of the Second World War until about 1980, the United States was building upon the New Deal and its victory in the war to move toward a mixed economy, one that tempered the potential overreach of capitalism and capitalists and the potential for disaster their employees might face. American did not move as far as European countries did to create and maintain a social welfare state. There were few if any nationalizations of industries. The Taft-Hartley Act limited the power of unions to organize the workforce. But there was a limited welfare state for the poor, the elderly, and the disabled; it didn't meet all of the needs of these groups, but it reduced the suffering enough for state governments and charities to make a difference. And there was always the hope that, in time, we could find ways to build a social welfare state that protected everyone.
But about 1980, all of that changed.
We were sold the biggest bill of goods in our nation's history. We were told that all of our needs would be fulfilled if we stopped trusting in government, and put all of our faith in the hands of the investing class. All we had to do was trust them, and give them unlimited room to move, and all would be well.
And we bought it. Hook line and sinker. Even Democrats were at a total loss for words at this turn of events. So much so that they started to pretend to sound sort-of-kind-of-like Republicans. And thus we ended up with two Republican Parties. And no hope for turning the tide.
Today, the tide has gone all the way out, perhaps forever. And we have only ourselves to blame.
We, the people, who voted for this nightmare, time and time again, even when we saw our purchasing power shrinking, our job security vanishing, our hopes for a decent retirement and a better future for our children change from realities into fantasies. We, the people, who bought the bill of goods without examining it too closely, without checking it against the ledger of history, which would have told us that we had tried this before, and it had failed us then as well. We, the people, who mistook a smile and a shoeshine for sound public policy, and who have built the snares that trap us though our gullibility, our laziness, our greed, and our simple-minded faith in the people who tell us the lies we're itching to hear.
We should be mad at United Airlines, and all corporations that live to monetize every aspect of our lives, at the expense of basic human decency. The overbooking of flights is merely one example, although it effectively illustrates how corporations get away with systemically disrupting our lives while buying us out at the same time, thereby turning us all into commodities.
We should be mad at all Americans, who either deliberately voted this insanity into power, or didn't do enough to stop it.
But each of us needs to start dealing with our anger by looking in the mirror. I'm no exception. I have spent a lot of time lately asking myself what I can do to turn things around. And, if you want to turn things around, and you haven't started looking in your mirror, start now. Before United Airlines can get its hands on another passenger.