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it’s a safe world af-ter all

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sit down man, you’re a bloody tragedy has a good post up about airports…

Architectures of Control has posted on how Airports are essentially made as unpleasant as possible without inducing the consumer to riot, and much as one would like to imagine them as glamorous Eero Saarinen fantasies, they’re a fantastic example of the cumbersome nature of neoliberalism. Old-school public transport on trains might take longer, but involves no pointless waiting for check in, no little bus to take you from one bit of runway to the other, no nonsense about face creams – just buy a ticket, sit down. One can enjoy a train ride. Planes, after the (always admittedly fun) initial woosh are just deadly dull and pervaded by endless regulation and bureaucracy. The endless queueing, dithering and corporate mean-spiritedness suggests an entire mode of transport based on the experience of 21st century England.

One thing to add here, from the other side of the Atlantic. While Brits are placed in contact with representatives of the national government on a relatively regular basis in one form or another, the withered federal government (which exists, at this point, mostly to fund wars-for-profit, funnel cash to shady conglomerates and abstinence-only religious organizations) in the US has so little presence “on the ground” that the airport is literally one of the few places that most Americans will ever come into contact with the feds. Our schools are locally administrated, there is no federal health care until you’re old, national transit is on its way toward non-existent in the form of Amtrak, etc etc. In short, the only places the average American voter brushes up against the DC government is when she or he fills out his tax forms and when she or he places the shoes and belts and coats and laptops and watches and cell phones in the fucking bins at the security checkpoint.

In a very distinct way, the airport is the federal government’s last remaining point of intimate contact with the general population. I think realizing this goes along way to explaining why, exactly, air travel is the way that it is today in the US, where it has morphed from something that you do to get from one place to another and into a full-on participatory-diorama of fascist discipline. Disney couldn’t design it better…

Last week, headed through the security checkpoint in Florida (no lines, no hurry – everything’s cool), with all of my stuff carefully sorted into the right bins, one of the DHS guards screamed at me as I prepared to walk through the metal detector with my 2 year old in my arms. “HER. SHOES. OFF. NOW!” Because we all know that the sort of inhuman scum that we’re dealing with wouldn’t think twice about using a super-cute toddler as a plastique delivery device, fuses sticking right out of her little sandals. It takes a special kind of submissiveness (and one that I likely wouldn’t have possessed back in 1998 or so, before my post-9/11 training by these folks) not to reply “GO. FUCK. YOURSELF. PIG!” But you don’t. Most mutter to themselves, I imagine, “Well, it’s for our own good, right?” For me, it’s more like “What will my wife say if I end up detained in the airport brig and we miss our flight?” This subvocal discourse is exactly the point – the whole experience seems to have evolved into Disney-type immersive adaptation to police-state doublethink, where our bodies revolt but our minds lock up in the face of “You will go to prison if you… / Better than dying on the plane…”

Of course, the checkpoint is only a prelude to relieved emergence into the departures hall, once you’ve got your shoes and belt back on, and where, at four minute intervals, a voice drums the fact that The current threat level is Orange, or High. The current threat level is Orange, or High. The current threat level is Orange, or High. And once you’re on the plane, there is the special new addendum to the pointless safety play that the flight attendants stage as you taxi toward takeoff: “It is against federal regulations to congregate in space near the door to the cockpit – please wait at your seat until the lavatory is free etc…” The cabin of the plane is momentarily transformed into a space to be filled with a fantasized scene borrowed from movies and reenactments, as you imagine the swarthy guys with the bloody razor blade kicking and kicking at the cockpit door…

Written by adswithoutproducts

July 23, 2007 at 3:21 pm

Posted in america

2 Responses

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  1. YES.

    Dave McDougall

    July 23, 2007 at 6:17 pm

  2. Thanks, Dave!


    July 23, 2007 at 10:25 pm

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