Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Goats + Air Crash Investigation + losing our Humanity

I was talking to my jumbo pilot brother in law the other day when he was asked about the recent Madrid plane crash that killed 153 people (mainly families off on hols) last month. His reply really struck me and we had a very brief chat about it. I can't remember the exact words he used but this is a summary of the gist of his unexpected response blurred in with my thoughts-
  • Everybody always wants to know 'what happened' which is also saying 'who is to blame'
  • This is very hard to say and often takes ages to work out and, whilst this is vital to prevent it happening again, its not the most important thing (this was a bit shocking coming from someone who spends his life 30,000ft up in one of these machines)
  • Bry said -What about the people who died, their families and those badly injured and still in hospital - what about the real life human beings caught up in this awful tragic event.
  • With the 24hr media cycle to maintain and the growing 'blame & claim' litigious culture explaining and blaming rob the people in the story of their humanity (as they become statistics and emotive/gore pics/porn?)

Does this explain/blame response, a classic scapegoating response (see other scapegoat labeled post here) help us to keep our own vulnerability, culpability and responsibility at bay. I mean does it help us rationalise it all so we -

  • Are not to disturbed by what could be a very important, humbling and refocusing reminder of our own mortality and relative lack of control of the world around us
  • Don't think for to long on how we might be in any way to blame for this or other 'regretable accidents' (Doesn't our wanton consumerism and the profit motive not drive short turn arounds, long lifetime aircraft, bare as possible bones maintenance etc (add in your own non aviation eg's Exxon Valdez, Bhopal?) Do we not all allow 'the system' to override our better judgement? Do we not all make more or less catastrophic balls ups of stuff on a regular basis? Also, doesn't a fear and blame culture make it harder to get to the truth in an investigation thats trying to make sure things are better next time. Openness and humility lead to learning and growth (repentance?) in processes and people.)
  • Are conveniently unreflective on the suffering and needs of our fellow human beings and doing what we might be able to do for them or others facing similar suffering closer to home
Warning long pondering sentences ahead -
So...I am trying to work out what this says about what God did by being willing to be the scapegoat in Jesus, to be the victim, to be pointed out as the designer of the supposed problem tile on the space shuttle, the bad apple spoiling everything, the thrashed and publicly trashed. To show what... that this scapegoating thing is a massive self preserving diversionary tactic that doesn't work, that we reveal the stuff we should really be ashamed of in the act of scapegoating, that Gods love is bigger than our convenient guilt systems (in fact not just bigger than guilt but bigger than even death in the Resurrection) . That, like Bry says, the bottom line is the dignity, value, comfort and life of real people that matters. That God's love (victim and perpetrator embracing love), rather that the idea of God=Fear and Blame, is the door to learning and growth = repentance and then onwards and outwards to the best chance of dignity, value, comfort and abundant life for all.

Hmm... bit dense and rambly in places but thanks Bry and folks - any thoughts?


mark said...

Some good points well made here. I certainly agree with Bry that there is something dehumanising in the blame thing that forgets that there are real people out there. Though, I think we can all be very guilty of dehumanising in our globalised world in which face to face contact has diminished. We can talk about the 'homeless', but its not until we spend an hour on the streets with them that they stop being the 'homeless', but they have names and a history, and are real, broken, often creative people. And its not just globalisation that has done this, but the sanctification of space in our cities - somehow we are able to live most of our lives without having to walk through some of the poor, urban inner city areas or know real people there.

I also think the BBC, ITV etc have some 'blame' here. With tight budgets and the pressure to produce rolling news it is easy to talk in abstract terms and draw out a news item by talking about blame, than it is to document the lives of real people, in ways that are human but not voyeuristic. But, it seems, news programmes don't seem to care too much about ethics!

mark said...

Sorry, another thing. Always looking to blame someone seems to suggest that people just can't accept that accidents happen. There has always got to be some kind of explanation. Its like they believe in an ordered universe, controlled by some kind of organising force. They sound more like theists than I do!