Thursday, July 2, 2009

Euronews, " 'Dustbin' Airline," Cultures, and the War on Terror

Two air disasters involving an Airbus are in the news again today. Neither seems to be connected with terrorism, and - thankfully - there don't seem to be rumors about Al Qaeda, the CIA, or anyone else being to blame.

There's something interesting going on, not just in the unfolding accounts of how and why Air France Flight 447 and Yemenia Flight 626 ended, but in the way the accounts are presented.

What We Know, What We may Never Know

Air France Flight 447 apparently hit the ocean intact, according to an early report.
"... "The plane went straight down ... towards the surface of the water, very very fast," air accident investigator Alain Bouillard said.

"Based on visual study of the physical remains of the Airbus A330 that have been recovered, "we were able to see that the plane hit the surface of the water flat. Therefore everything was pushed upwards -- everthing [!] was pushed from the bottom to the top" of the plane, he said.

"The 228 people killed in the crash 'had no time to prepare,' he said.

"But Bouillard said he did not have autopsy results from the bodies recovered, and did not know why no one lived through the crash.

" 'I don't know why nobody survived,' he said. 'I don't know the intensity of the impact. Perhaps we will find out from the autopsies. Perhaps we will never know.'..." (CNN)
Yemenia Flight 626 crashed more recently, and there haven't, as far as I can tell, been any official statements, preliminary or otherwise, about what's known. Weather Graphics has a pretty good summary of what's known, what's assumed, and what's speculated: together with a rather detailed analysis of weather conditions in the area at the time of the crash.

What may become a rather lively discussion over who's to blame for what is developing:
"French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has refuted Comoran Vice-President Idi Nadhoim's claims that France had failed to inform Comoros of a ban on the Yemenia Airbus A310 which crashed off the Indian Ocean archipelago on Tuesday.

"French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner responded Wednesday to criticisms levelled by the Comoran vice-president and transport minister, Idi Nadhoim, that Paris had failed to inform Comoros on the record of the Yemenia Airbus A310 that crashed Tuesday.

"The plane was banned from flying to our country, everybody knew it,' said Kouchner during a visit to Senegal. 'Everybody knew it in the Comoros, everybody.'..." (France 24)

Cultural Differences, Attitudes, and the War on Terror

I've made the point before, that in my view the war on terror is at least as much a matter of conflicting cultural values, as it is of ideological or religious differences.

Technology of the late Industrial Age, coupled with a lucrative trade in petroleum, brought people in cultures which had been out of the loop for centuries - or millennia - into contact with the outside world.

Then the dawn of the Information Age brought Barbies, Mickey Mouse, and bikinis into the homes of people whose customs were ancient when Abraham moved out of Ur.

I remember the shock and disgust expressed by parents and religious leaders, when rock and roll was new in American culture: and that was a reaction to something which was developing in their own culture.

In a way, it's no wonder that some people in the Middle East have gone a little crazy. Fast-forwarding through several thousand years of change could be a bit stressful.
France and Comoros: He Said / She Said
There's nothing unusual, I think, about the dialog starting between France and Comoros, over who dropped the ball on maintenance. We saw something like that happen in America a few months ago, when the Peanut Corporation of America made the mistake of poisoning its end users. (Apathetic Lemming of the North) It's human nature to deny fault, even when the prudent course of action would be to make a full disclosure and make the best of a bad situation. My view.
"Dustbin" Airline: Prejudice or Inclusion?
What jumped out at me this morning was euronews' use of " 'dustbin' airline" in their headline.

What struck me a as a rather harsh pejorative term could indicate quite a few things, including:
  • A rather traditional view of foreigners and other 'inferior races'
  • Inclusion and acceptance of non-Europeans to the point where editors felt comfortable insulting their institutions
I've noticed that, for many people, there's a sort of scale of insultability. At one end are the utter outsiders: people who one isn't allowed to kill these days, but who simply aren't, well, proper. At the other, members of your own family, and close friends.

This isn't a universal rule, by any means, but I think you may find it a bit familiar:
  • Utter outsiders
    • These people, and anything connected with them, may be insulted freely
    • Examples:
      • Commies
      • Capitalist pigs
      • Strip mall developers
  • Regular folks
    • They should be treated with some degree of courtesy, since insulting them may hurt their feelings - and their feelings matter
    • Examples:
      • Neighbors
      • Fellow-citizens
      • Members of your car pool, economic class, whatever
  • Close friends and family
    • These folks are so close to you, and you know each other so well, that it's safe to insult (some) of their possessions and qualities
Using this scale, that "dustbin" comment puts Comorans in the category of either 'utter outsiders' or 'close friends and family.'

I rather hope it's the latter. Western civilization has enough problems, without reviving attitudes that were wrong in the 19th and 20th centuries, and self-destructive in the 21st.

Related posts: In the news: Background:

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.