The main news event of the week (for me, anyway) was the murder of nearly one hundred and fifty people on board a German airliner. Did I say 'murder'? Yes, you bet I did. Did I say 'murder/suicide'? Nope. What happened was mass murder, plain and simple. I have no sympathy - no sympathy at all - for the killer. I don't care if he was 'ill', I don't care what demons he was fighting - and here's why.
Our society in the west - as always fed by the media machine that creates its own headlines to sell time for its sponsors - will climb over a kilometre of broken glass to find a reason why somebody should be pitied, empathized with or 'understood', even when they have perpetrated the most heinous acts. The killing of almost 150 people is tantamount to the act of a horrific mass murderer in any other circumstances, and that must never be forgotten. the man responsible for this appalling act may well have been diagnosable with depression or a mood disorder - any number of things, in fact - but that does not diminish the horror for the victims and the bereaved, and neither should it ever conceal it.
This man had a thousand choices which would have taken him down paths which would have prevented the deaths of those unsuspecting people. He could have chosen to end his own life any number of ways; privately, secretly even. He could have chosen to end his life without harming another living being, as the overwhelming majority of suicidal people do. The fact that he chose the diametrically opposite course is a reason to damn his memory, to remember him as what he was: a mass murderer on a repulsively grand scale. How dare he, after all.
Here was a man who, to all intents and purposes, was a fully-functioning person who, in a complex and stressful environment, was able to pass himself off as fit and well, who chose to conceal medical issues, who had very likely planned the manner of his death. We can pause and ask "But wasn't he sick - didn't he need our help? Isn't someone else to blame for failing to help him?", as our time-whoring journalists will do with regard to so many issues simply in order to perpetuate stories and sponsorship, but the answer is a simple: NO. This man was responsible in every sense of the word. I can forgive a great deal by virtue of a person's incapacity to think straight, but this is not what I can consider to be a forgivable act. This man is no better than anyone we label as 'psychopath' - the only difference here is that he also died by his own hand.
Moving on from the outrage, it remains to be seen whether the airline industry will react positively to this incident. the signs are good so far: Many airlines are now committing themselves to maintain a minimum of two people on the flight deck at all times. That will help. Anyone else (and while I freely acknowledge that such instances are very rare, one is too many) with such sick-minded intentions needs to know that it will not be a simple matter to execute their plans.
Pilots, people who have trained hard, gained extensive experience and jumped through who knows how many hoops, would surely recognise that the loss of medical privacy is a sensible price to pay for occupying a position of such immense responsibility. Surely pilots in particular would understand that their employers and the regulating authorities have a genuine right to ensure that the people at the controls, and with the lives of others in their hands, are as healthy as they are expected to be? I would hope so.
Other measures, however, are needed. As an infrequent airline passenger (but a former weekly flyer), I expect my flight crew to be sober and free from any kind of intoxicants. I expect 100% compliance with that. But guess what? Here in Canada, it is not yet possible to randomly test airline pilots for sobriety, or for recent drug use. Why? because, apparently - according to the union argument - to do so would be an infringement of the pilot's human rights. I have never heard of anything so ridiculous, and I won't waste your time explaining why - the reasoning couldn't be any more obvious. However, regardless of that, the argument remains, and as of today, In Canada, airline pilots can get stoned the previous night and report for work the next day, safe in the knowledge that they cannot be tested.
Apparently, their 'human rights' are so important as to mean that unscrupulous pilots can continue their drug use while they are actively working in the industry. I wonder who was thinking of the rights of the other people in the following cases reported by the Transport Safety Board...