Why are we mad at United Airlines?

After all, we’re the ones who have created the world in which profits take priority over people

I’m going to assume if you’re reading this, either in the newspaper or on the Internet, that you aren’t living in a cave somewhere, totally unaware of what’s happening in the world. So I’m going to go ahead and not explain in much detail what happened on United Airlines flight 3411 in Chicago earlier this week.

The short version is that a man was physically dragged off the airplane after refusing to leave voluntarily because the flight had been overbooked.

Video of the man being dragged down the aisle, bloody-faced and dazed, went viral online, and the world was outraged.

And rightly so.

But is that outrage misplaced?

Everyone seems to be mad at United Airlines. But, really, they were just doing what they are supposed to do, based on how we, as a society, have ordered them to operate.

We’ve created a society where profit is supposed to be the driving factor in a company’s decisions. We’ve made it so that corporations are mandated is to maximize profits in order to increase the value of their shares for those who have invested in them. In fact, it’s the reason corporations exist. That has led to airlines intentionally overbooking flights to maximize profits. I’m no economist, and I’m not going to pretend that I understand how that works, exactly, but it clearly does, or they wouldn’t do it.

We’ve even gone so far as to create laws that allow the authorities to enforce the policies created to maximize corporate profit. Which is what happened here.

So we can’t really be outraged at United Airlines, because what they did was perfectly within their rights – rights granted to them by we, the people.

Can we be outraged at the Chicago Police Department? After all, they’re the ones United called in to get the man off the plane.

Well, not really. They were enforcing the law of the land, which says passengers must leave an aircraft when requested to do so. The man wouldn’t leave the aircraft voluntarily, so they did what they thought they needed to do to enforce the law – as brutal as the result was.

Can we be outraged at the man who was violently hauled off the plane because he didn’t leave when he was asked?

Obviously not. He bought a ticket and assumed that granted him rights to be on that flight. It actually didn’t, but it’s not his fault he didn’t know that. I think most people booking air travel would make that same assumption.

So at whom should we be directing our outrage? Because I, like many others, are, indeed, outraged.

I guess we have to be mad at ourselves.

After all, we’re the ones who have created the world in which profit takes priority. We’ve allowed society to become more about money than people. We’ve told corporations they can make the rules, because we want them to be profitable so we can reap the economic rewards of that profit and we’ve told the authorities they need to enforce those rules so we can continue to do so.

So what’s the answer, Davies?

Alas, I don’t know. We’re so far down this proverbial rabbit hole that it’s pretty dark when you glance back up the tunnel we’ve dug for ourselves and look for the light at the top.

I do know, however, that I’m going somewhere after work and buying something from a store that isn’t listed on any stock exchange and where I’m treated like I matter as a person instead of a dollar sign when I walk in the door.