Sunday, June 12, 2011

Libido Dominandi

Yet another account of what many will, no doubt, describe as TSA stupidity: the idea that TSA workers are low-paid simpletons who lack common sense.

I don't believe this is the case at all.  I believe this is rather a case of what St. Augustine called libido dominandi, the lust for domination.  It is the sinful desire to rule over other people, to bully, to use one's power to make other people do things or comply with orders.  And while there may be a million psychobabble reasons for such behavior, there really is only one explanation: sin.  People love pushing others around.  There is a little fascist inside every bearer of original sin.

This is a special temptation for those with government power and/or authority.  I saw it first hand as a corrections officer.  Of course, there are rules and there is authority.  But what causes a man (who otherwise seems easy-going and socially normal) to enjoy making as much noise as possible in the middle of the night every 20 minutes so as to deprive inmates of sleep?  Does it add to his quality of life or make society any safer?  The only thing that is satisfied by such actions is libido dominandi.

In our current climate, TSA agents are given a lot of power.  They have a captive audience, and they know it.  They have the ability to look at anyone they choose naked, simply on their word.  Likewise, they can select anyone they choose for what is euphemistically called a "patdown."  And what's more, they can threaten to fondle and grope, thus exercising power over people who are trying to avoid such treatment.

For the sinful "Old Adam," at least in many cases, this is just too much to resist.  In the case mentioned above, the TSA agents are obviously not keeping the planet safe for democracy by refusing to allow a parent to speak for his mentally disabled son, nor by seizing his toy plastic hammer and trying to convince everyone - themselves included - that this was in the interest of airline safety.

Technology has changed since the days of St. Augustine, but fallen human nature hasn't.

1 comment:

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The simple adage is "Power corrupts..." What do we expect to have happen when we put lots of people in uniforms in positions of power and control over strangers who they have no relationship with. Think about the anonymity you have with this -- at least a prison guard sees the inmates over and over. When's a flier going to see you again... or if they do, how many people will you have searched between those two times. It's a totally depersonalizing approach to the exercise of control -- of course it's going to be abused.