The beauty of reading: an ability to immerse oneself in the pages of classic literature. Arrogance makes us assume that novels from the 1800s and earlier are not applicable to today, but that … is incorrect. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Fiction reveals truths that reality obscures;” Henryk Sienkiewicz’s book, Quo Vadis (1896) is just such fiction, set against Emperor Nero’s reign. ‘Quo Vadis’ is Latin for ‘Where are you going?’; Saint Peter asks this in a vision. The back story has Nero authorizing Rome’s burning in 64 AD. Faced with a furious citizenry, Nero used propaganda and influence to blame the fire on the Christians, a defenseless religious people. Soon, hundreds of innocent Christian men, women and children were slaughtered in the most brutal ways. Quo Vadis is a timeless tale that demonstrated how false narratives destroyed civilizations, just like today, in the year 2020.
In March 2019, the Boeing B737-MAX was grounded after two high-profile air disasters: Lion Air 610 and Ethiopian Air 302. In what could only be described as an international kangaroo court, Boeing was dragged into the media’s hysteria and subjected to inept opinions – lean on knowledge, fat on ignorance. The MAX was exposed to inept analysis from investigators with no access to – let alone knowledge of – Boeing’s designs. Finally, the maladroit conclusions of the Ethiopian and Indonesian accident investigators, proved prejudicial and unqualified. Did anyone read reports KNKT.18.10.35.04 and AI-01/19? Did anyone understand the mistakes that could not be concealed?
How biased: government-run airlines investigated by government employees. Aside from the fact these government employees were not discerning about the latest technologies, governments are opposed to finding blame in themselves and less likely to admit blame when confronted. Ethiopian and Indonesian government investigators were woefully unqualified to analyze the Boeing’s latest designs of digital-based turbine engine aircraft. In addition, the investigators were engineers, ones who did NOT … could NOT … understand what they were looking at.
What was myopic was that engineers do not play active roles in aircraft maintenance, airline operations or take part in day-to-day airline activities. How many pilots on delay tell Operations to send out an engineer? How many mechanics rely on engineers to troubleshoot everyday system problems? Adding insult to injury, these accident investigators/engineers were bureaucrats who shifted blame from their airlines’ deficient training and antiquated culture practices, i.e., from themselves … to Boeing.
Then it got worse. In stepped the media and their non-aviation news ‘experts’, who amassed confusion and stoked public fear. Armed with hearsay, the media discredited Boeing and set the industry back twenty months before the Federal Aviation Administration rescinded the 737-MAX’s grounding order on November 18, 2020. By then Boeing’s reputation took a crippling hit in public trust; they lost billions in redesigns. Who did this was irrelevant; What they did was imperative, followed closely by Why.
How did industry ‘fix’ the MAX? Did they turn to mechanics experienced with digital aircraft technology or pilots with thousands of flight hours in digital aircraft? No, industry trusted the very work group that designed the ‘problems’ into the MAX: the engineers.
It was evident from both reports (and to those paying attention) that the investigating engineers, the media and the ‘experts’ did not understand the technology.
The inexperienced accident investigators, reporters and aviation ‘experts’, those who could not explain the B737-MAX’s technology to themselves, lacked the ability to explain the technology to others. And yet, these people seized control of the conversation and drove the narrative. Why were we so quick to accept the incompetent media’s word, let them steer us to the cliff’s edge and over?
The destructive mainstream media strategies of, e.g., CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and other major news channels and publications, can so easily destroy reputations that take decades to rebuild. Have any of these reporters ever turned a wrench; landed in zero visibility; taught up-and-coming aviation people? Did they play us – all of us – as fools?
The year 2020 marched on, and suddenly we had run out of pocket change; stores across the nation could not even break a one-dollar bill. Had the United States Mint run out of cupronickel or was someone trying to force us to pay with credit cards or debit cards? How curious.
The COVID-19 tally of those infected had risen. However, the COVID death toll had flattened. Because of available testing we were now receiving accurate numbers of those who contracted COVID … and lived … or had been unwittingly living for months as COVID-positive. Why, then, are we still wearing masks; avoiding restaurants; listening to politicians about COVID safety? Are we no longer concerned about the 2020-21 strain of the annual flu or does the annual flu season not happen anymore?
Cynical tactics were never more evident than with the November 3rd election night. It does not matter who each of us voted for president: President Trump, Senator Kamala Harris or Mickey Mouse. Who we voted for was irrelevant; What we voted for was imperative, followed closely by Why.
What transpired on election night should scare the living hell out of every American citizen. We can no longer trust that a two hundred-year old, reliable voting system is still used. Even if we believe – or do not believe – fraud occurred, the question of fraud was raised with convincing evidence. That demanded that a serious investigation be run.
Late night comedians assured us that the election was legit; Daytime talk show hosts laughed at the suggestion of any fraud. Their years of questionable political superiority aside, the concept of fraud should have even made them shudder; indeed, they did not know the difference between criminal lawsuits and civil lawsuits, when searching for the truth. As these personalities focused on the distraction instead of the election, celebrities, e.g., singers, movie stars and other entertainers, assured us with their trustworthiness, that all was well, that we needed to move on. Any one of these people who balked at the possibility of fraud with disdain and sarcasm was not looking out for the People.
Meanwhile, the media seemed unusually quiet; they stood with hands in pockets, staring at the floor while shuffling their feet, intent to ignore all that was going on. On November 10th, the New York Times said, “Voting fraud is extremely rare.” Extremely rare?! Just how rare is ‘rare’? How extreme is ‘extremely’? Why would fraud be allowed at all, even when extremely rarely?
A week after the election, the Michigan Secretary of State’s spokesperson stated emphatically that “We have not seen any evidence of fraud or foul play …” Can his analysis be believed? Where is his proof? Another politician said, “… it would be nearly impossible to do voter fraud.” Nearly impossible is not a denial; it is a distraction. Perhaps these politicians did not understand the technology. Or, perhaps, they did. Perhaps they knew how easily the technology could be corrupted to sway the election.
Who promised to fix the ‘broken’ election system? The very group that broke the system: Politicians, whose agenda-driven power brokers divided this nation along racial, gender, demographic and income lines, were now going to save us. Government bureaucrats would, again, ‘fix’ the mess they made.
Then there were corporate executive officers, like Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) or Jack Dorsey (Twitter), who manipulated social media to allow only the news they wanted us to hear. Two men, who made their billions without discipline, who somehow tripped and fell face first into billionaire status, provoked the political outcome of their choosing and played their customers in the process.
Other bad actors played more damaging strategies. They demonized Police Officers, called them ‘racists’, despite minority police officers in, e.g., New York City, making up 57% of the police force. Domestic terrorists burned our cities, looted businesses and unashamedly annihilated our way of life. While these terrorists launched unprovoked attacks on innocents, Hollywood and sports figures bailed them out, lifted them up and supported their rampages. This action was allowed, encouraged and applauded.
The media and politicians have desensitized us. We shrug off the assaults and victimizations of Mexican children smuggled across the borders by Coyotes. The shocking drive-by gang-related shootings of adolescent children attending birthday parties or barbeques became lost amid calls for defunding the police. We ignored at what point a life is valued. Our immunity to all that is shocking … is shocking. Have we become so apathetic? Does our nation’s upheaval not interest us anymore?
As in the novel, we should all be asked, “Quo Vadis;” “Where are you going?”. As the story played out, corruption and fraud turned an entire civilization against itself, led the average Roman citizen to betray his or her neighbor for power. How different are we? It is becoming a crime to want the same successful principles our earlier generations lived and died to defend. The year 2020 may have shown us – hopefully, not too late – that we are in danger of a decline of our decency and morality towards one another. So, should we ask ourselves, “Populus autem Americae, Ubi Sumus Iens?”
Translation: “People of America, where are we going?”