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Vicky Mochama: The voice of Metro News.

United flight proves you should forget what the boss says and just be good to one another: Mochama

Most of us work for corporations with similar logic to United Airlines. Its goal is to maximize efficiency. But it doesn’t have to be ours.

AP Photo

A company pays you for your labour — not so you can abdicate all moral responsibility.

By now, you’ve seen the video of a doctor being dragged off a United Airlines flight. For obvious reasons, it is upsetting. But the more insidiously upsetting thing is that we have become inured to one another: Human beings enforced the company’s rules.

News reports say United requested four people give up their seats in order to give those seats to ground crew. When no one on the flight volunteered, people were selected at random and told to get off the plane in exchange for vouchers.

The passenger pled his case: he had to get back to Louisville to see patients. But the airline’s agents and security had already bought into the company’s logic. And because the man had not, he had to be forcibly removed, or in the parlance of United, “re-accommodated.”


Defending their actions, the police say the passenger “fell.” The video clearly shows that the police, shall we say, reaccomodated him into a non-standing position.

We have become used to a system that isolates us from each other and a logic in which the state protects companies from us.

How often has a reasonable request been denied because “the computer can’t do it?”

Corporations (and the state) have an interest in reinforcing our helplessness. And it’s taught early.

The New York Times reports that New Mexico has outlawed “lunch shaming,” when cafeteria workers shame kids whose parents haven’t paid their school lunch bills. Children can be made to do chores in exchange for their lunch or branded with stamps and wristbands.

Let us set aside for the moment that one of the richest nations in the world can’t feed the children it is educating. Let’s focus on the smaller acts of intervention.

Lunch shaming is a sickening practice, but there are cafeteria staff who resist it. The Times reports that one worker had taken to paying some students’ debt. Another had quit rather than deny food to children.

Most of us work for corporations with similar logic to United Airlines and school lunch providers. Their goal is to maximize efficiency. But it doesn’t have to be ours.

Because I lose my debit card as often as I possibly can, I have been grateful for the baristas who waved off my pitiful change, the bus drivers who waved me on when my pass didn’t work, and the taxi drivers who got me home safe for free.

The gap between human empathy and corporate logic is not always as dangerous as being bloodied during a flight, but it can be, which is why we have a responsibility to resist it.

The world will not fall into anarchy if we exercise more compassion.

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