I have travelled by air since the age of three, and since then I have averaged at least two flights a year, invariably to international destinations. I have lived in five different countries, both in the First and Third Worlds, located on both sides of the Atlantic. This means I have thirty-six years of experience as an international traveller, which makes me somewhat of an authority on how the global air travel experience has changed since the early 1970s.
Because we moved and flew so frequently during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90, I never really thought about the travel experience until after September 11, 2001, when the heightened security measures both at the airport and aboard the aircraft, made me take notice and begin comparing present conditions with those of the past.
I have only vague recollections of my first flight, in December 1973, and none of the flights to and from Texas in 1975-6, but I do know they were not substantially different from the first one I remember clearly, in July 1977. That year my parents sent me over to Europe to spend 45 days with my maternal cousins, aunts, uncles and grandmother, who lived in France and Spain. As my parents were living in Venezuela at the time, the flight over to spain was an eight-hour transatlantic journey aboard a Boeing 747, which took off at twilight and landed at Barajas Airport in Madrid the following day.
It amazes me when I compare the size of Madrid Barajas in 1977 against how it is today. In 1977, a time when the world population was 40 % smaller, it consisted of a single terminal, and it was possible for me to stand by the conveyor belt at the baggage reclaim hall and see my relatives waiting for me at the arrivals hall just beyond a pair of clear glass sliding doors. The doors were not kilometers away, as it is the case in modern terminals, and the view was not blocked by walls, barriers, antechambers, sinuous layouts, obscure surveillance booths, or painted glass.
It amazes me even more when I think of how dinner was served aboard the flight that took me there. Nowadays you might be lucky to get a cold sandwich in a plastic bag, and if you do, you will likely have to get your wallet out and pay for it with cash. The reason is, as we all know, that the airlines have to protect themselves, because I might well decide to stun a member of the cabin crew by slamming her in the face with my plastic tray, stab her in the neck with my plastic fork, or use my tiny plastic knife to cut the throats of any passengers who may decide to wrestle me to the ground, before I detonate the plastic explosives in my shoes to blow up everyone in the name of Allah. Moreover, airlines, which have for years been locked in cutthroat acompetition with one another (and particularly the cattle freighters known as „budget airlines“), as well as been crippled by inflating fuel and security costs, now fly 0.527 femtometers above bankruptcy; I must help them survive by upping my expenditure and lowering my expectations.
In 1977 dinner was served hot, on a tray, and complete with full-sized steel cutlery. Inside a foil container I found stewed beef and boiled vegetables, and next to the container there was a round of bread, crackers, cheese, butter, a fruit salad, and a slice of cake. All of this was served free, as it was included in the price of the fare.
A smoking section was located some rows ahead od me, which meant that I was able to smell the cigarettes being smoked by my grown-up travellers elsewhere in the cabin. Travellers were alowed to carry with them matches or kerosene-filled lighters, even though they could have well decided to set fire to their seats in order to generate confusion before detonating the plastic explosives in their shoes to blow up everyone in the name of Allah.
I was allowed to carry a fair amount of hand luggage, including a box of Legos. My parents could well have stuffed the insides of the pieces with plastic explosives and instructed me to detonate them with a match, to blow up everyone in the name of Allah.
Down at the departures terminal, security had consisted merely of my being walked through the metal detector and having my hand luggage X-rayed. It was not a problem if I passed through wearing a coat, even though its pockets could have well been filled with designer drugs, corrosive substances, doomsday virological weapons, or plastic explosives.
Since September 11, 2001, the original indignities introduced at airport terminals have been gradually expanded, to the point where I now have to take off my shoes, my belt, my watch, my coat, and my jacket, as well as empty out all my pockets and put my change, my keys, my telephone, and any book or laptop on a plastic tray so that it can all be scrutinised under the X-ray machine — lest I have packed them with plastic explosives. I prefer not to take shaving cream, shampoo, deodorant, or toothpaste with me if I am travelling with hand luggage only, as there are limitations on fluids, and I have seen people being asked to take out all their toiletries and carry them in a clear plastic bag so that they can be scrutinised under the X-ray machine too — lest they have packed them with plastic explosives.
Despite my precautions and partial stripping, sometimes the metal detector bleeps when I walk through it, and I am asked to stand with my legs apart and my arms extended horizontally so that I can be subjected to a detailed hand search and a new scan with a hand-held metal detector by a police officer who thinks I might have a concealed weapon and might be planning to kill my fellow passengers, hijack the airplane, and order the pilot at gunpoint to land the Boeing 747 on the 50th floor of the Sears Tower in Chicago.
And my wife tells me that, before boarding her flight to Sweden recently, she had to endure a male police officer fondling her breasts, lest they were being used to conceal lethal chemicals or weapons of mass destruction.
Up until the 1990s, it was possible for me to arrive at Heathrow Airport 45 minutes before take off and still have enough time to check in, go through security, and board the aircraft before the gate was closed. Now I know I will not make it unless I give myself at least twice as long, as there are lightyears of queues at security and at various points before boarding the aircraft the police will want to check that I have not forged my identity or my travel documents, and that I really have the right to be on the flight for which I claim to have bought a ticket.
A government that I did not elect has told a media that scorns my values that all these indignities, inconveniences, and restrictions are for my protection, as there is an organization out there called al-Quaeda that seeks to blow me to pieces the moment they get a chance. I recollect hearing, seven or eight years ago, that this organization sought to do so because its members “hated my freedom”. The motives behind more recent operations by its members and those inspired by them, such as the Madrid bombing of 2004 or the London bombing of 2005, however, have not been explained as fully. Apparently, the government-media complex deems the degree of religiosity of the attackers sufficient explanation: They are “Muslim extremists.”
The al-Quaeda leadership have long publicized an alternative explanation: The problem, according to them, is the American government’s foreign policy in the Middle East, whereby America’s politicians, irrespective of age, race, gender, disability, or sexual orientation, lend unwavering support to Israel, both financially, technologically, and diplomatically, and effectively exempt the latter from complying with dozens of UN resolutions and other aspects of international law. Since al-Quaeda identifies with the Muslim population whose country Israel wiped off the map, this makes the United States a military target. And if countries besides the United States have been attacked, it is because, by aping their peers across the Atlantic, their governing politicians have made military targets of the countries whose interests they were elected to protect.
This means that the reason I am forced to have my time wasted at the airport, and the reason I am forced to subject myself to all manner of indignities and intrusions at the hands of the police and the intelligence service, including partial stripping; being filmed, recorded, and databased; treated like a violent international criminal; and having to eat with my hands, is that politicians I never voted for (and whom most people scorned at the ballot box) have decided, without consulting with me but at my expense, to vehemently support an aggressive country that ignores laws that these same politicians insist every country must rigorously observe. This also means that were these politicians to withdraw their support for Israel, I would be safer and my quality of life as an air traveller would be higher.
Were it not for Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, I would have been very surprised by the pro-Israel policy so staunchly pursued by Western politicians. Not only because it yields zero benefits for their constituents, but also because Israel’s very definition as a nation — which also happens to be a major irritant for al-Quaeda — contradicts these same politicians’ professed belief in the benefits of multiculturalism and multiracialism. After all, Israel was created as a Jewish state — by Jews, for Jews — at the exclusion of all other cultures, races, ethnicities, and religions. Were I to campaign for a White EU, by Whites, for Whites, at the exclusion of all other cultures, races, ethnicities, and non-indigenous religions, I would find that the legislative changes instituted by successive waves of Western politicians during recent decades have comprehensively removed any legal sanctuary I might have had against persecution by individuals, organizations, and bureaucracies committed to a multicultural view of Europe.
Were it not for Mearsheimer and Walt’s monograph, I would have been asking myself why Western politicians have been so spectacularly remiss in bringing to Israel the good news of multiculturalism and multiracialism. For, surely, if encouraging all humans to blend together, from the civic down to the genetic level, is the means by which inter-ethnic conflict will be ended, then the advent of multiculturalism and multiracialism in Israel can only be good news for that troubled country, and the essential ingredient in attaining long-lasting peace and security in the region.
But because Mearsheimer and Walt’s monograph efficiently explains these contradictions, I am not surprised. In the context of a powerful Israel Lobby, it certainly makes a lot of practical sense for Western politicians to worry about their careers and their reputations before they worry about my safety and my comfort: After all, they don’t know me, I am not related to them, I do not own hundreds of newspapers or television channels with which I can exhibit their virtues (or their vices) to the world, and I am not able to assist them in seeing the merit of my point of view with a few strategic billion dollar donations.
Patriotically standing up to such colossal power for the sake of millions of strangers who can easily be pacified with ball games and game shows; who can only cast a vote once every four or five years; who are offered a strictly limited choice between interchangeable candidates with nearly-identical political programs; who are constantly monitored, recorded, regulated, and taxed at every single level; who can be rapidly prosecuted and convicted for having a dissenting opinion on the issues that really matter; and who often will only notice the consequences of present-day policies decades down the line, by which time the causes will have been forgotten — patriotically standing up to such colossal power in this context, I say, takes more cojones and integrity than can be reasonably expected from the politicians of the Kali-Yuga — what the Hindus call the Age of Chaos.
In 1987, while living in Holland, I imagined that by the year 2000 technology would have progressed to the point whereby it would be possible arrive at an international airport, drop one’s luggage onto a conveyor belt, and walk straight into an airplane, with hardly any queuing or time wastage, thanks to a streamlined electronic passenger processing system that would eliminate the inconvenience of paper tickets, paper passports, inked stamps, and manual searches. By the year 2007, however, by then acutely aware of how the world was actually run, I imagined the exact opposite: more queues and more time wastage than ever before, with multiple, overlapping, and contradictory electronic passenger processing systems adding layers of convolution where previously there had been none. I had no idea, 20 years before, that the politicians my parents’ tax money were funding would cause security to become such an issue.