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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Rebel, the Beer, and the Slide

You have probably heard the recent story doing the rounds about Steven Slater, a JetBlue flight attendant who got into an argument with a passenger on a jetliner arriving at JFK International Airport. Slater cursed an allegedly abusive passenger, grabbed a beer from the galley and then deployed an emergency exit slide and took a joyride outa there. That was Slater's rather unique way of saying "Take this job and shove it." Slater  was later arrested and charged with criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and trespassing.

Check out this video animation put out by Hong Kong's Apple daily online newspaper (more about this, below). Click on "read more", below, if the video doesn't show up on this page.

There's a couple of things about this story which are quite intriguing from a futures perspective. 

Firstly, in terms of personal futures, the story has really resonated with a lot of people (as Slater himself has pointed out).The story has been a hit across the world in various news media. The Youtube video above has half a million hits already. Several sympathetic Slater Facebook pages have appeared. Many people are cheering for him. The question is, why?

The key for me is that Slater expresses a certain human archetype - the rebel - someone who thumbs his nose at authority and the system - and does it in style. The gesture of grabbing a couple of beers before activating the slide is undoubtedly an attractive part of the story for many.

As part of my consciousness work, I have seen the importance of the rebel archetype. Healthy human functioning requires a certain degree of rebellion, as spiritual maturation in general. Sometimes it is simply necessary to say "No!", and say it with force. As individuals we are all subject to regular manipulation, restriction and even bullying. I maintain that this occurs not only within the physical environments in which we live and work, but it is also a feature of the consciousness fields in which our minds are embedded. We are constantly being poked and prodded by others.

Interestingly, the story has been a hit in Hong Kong, and the Apple Daily newspaper video testifies. As I have written before, HK is an extremely restrictive and often repressive society. Emerging from the control of colonial rule and set up as a centre of international finance, a central "soul issue" of the HK collective is restriction, an consciousness field which borders on enslavement. The region is dominated by robotic, by-the-rulebook administrators; and a very effective but repressive hierarchic social structure. Western societies are far more egalitarian in comparison. 

A story told many times amongst teachers in HK is of the teacher whose husband died. Returning to work after her permitted two days of leave, she was instructed by the principal to change the day of the funeral, as it conflicted with a staff meeting. Another teacher told me that his principal refused to grant him an afternoon of leave when his wife went into labour during school hours. He missed the birth. One of my Hong Kong friends at the school I previously taught in recently died two months ago - at his desk. The tragic event occurred on a Saturday, when he'd gone in to do extra work. His body was not found till Monday, as other staff members present that day assumed he was simply sleeping at his desk, as so many Hong Kong teachers do when too exhausted to keep their eyes open.

Unlike western teenagers, Hong Kong kids (like many Asian societies) generally do not rebel. Although there are certainly exceptions, they generally become rather meek and compliant in their adolescence, relative to their western counterparts. To put it another way, they are easy to control. 

At a psychological level, Steven Slater is the guy Hong Kongers want to be - indeed need to be. The rebel archetype is not just about violence, disrespect and anarchy. It also has a healthy expression. An empowered human being knows how and when to say "Fuck off" or "Fuck you", and that may even be in a literal sense sometimes (though preferably a little more discretely).

The video put out by Apple Daily is also interesting from a technology futures point of view. The animation is a little crude, but it tells the story effectively. Or does it? There are conflicting stories about what really happened in the Steven Slater incident. Some passengers claim he came onto the plane with a gash on his head, and was abusive to the passengers and the woman he got into an altercation with. The media and blogging world may have spun the story into something more that is more a fantasy than an actuality.

These animations are a hot in Taiwan and Hong Kong (sometimes I think many people in that part of the world love virtual reality more than the real world). As the technology behind these animations improves, the re-creations will become ever more lifelike. One day it will be difficult to distinguish the virtual from the real. What possibilities are there for the manipulation of news and information in such a future? How difficult will it be for the public to really know what is going on in the world? With Photoshop and digital alterations of video and audio media, the fine line is becoming even finer.

The recent Mel Gibson controversy is a perfect example. Recordings were made public of Mel screaming obscenities at his partner, replete with racist and sexist insults. The media got hold of it, and the recording were widely heard around the world. Mel Gibson's reputation, already rather damaged, suffered even more. Not long after authorities questioned the authenticity of the tapes, and indicated that there was evidence of extensive manipulation of the recordings. Perhaps Mel Gibson, who ironically portrayed the ultimate rebel in movies like Braveheart and Mad Max, may need to do a little rebelling himself.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Marcus,
    I saw that animation on COUNTDOWN, a cable news program here. They've also showed the Michael Jackson ones that were made after his death. They're very bizarre rendition of events.

    I think people liked Slater's slide down the chute for two reasons. Most people hate their jobs and would love to do something like that. Also, air travel is frustrating and overly regimented. So people felt good about someone rebelling against the system. - Rob