I usually refrain from commenting on a terrible human tragedy, and the crash of a German Wings plane earlier this week is certainly one beyond comprehension. However, this time I make an exception, being triggered by what very much sounds like an experience of synchronicity by a (not so distant) family member of mine around the time of the crash. The experience of a ‘meaningful coincidence’ forced him (i.e. my family member) to stand still, for a moment, and reflect on things. I make a similar and obviously very partial effort here. There is no “truth” in matters like these, let’s make that clear right from the start. Even more so because it’s not even confirmed yet, as we write this, that the co-pilot crashed the plane on purpose. I agree the proper answer is to remain silent when so many innocent people died. But it’s only human to try to make a bit sense out of something incomprehensible, whether it’s a horrible plane crash which looks deliberate, or an experience of synchronicity. The comments below are written under the assumption that the co-pilot did crash the plane on purpose.
I can’t look in the head of the (by now notorious) co-pilot of the German Wings plane, but if the reports are being confirmed that he wanted to change the whole system in an act that the whole world would remember, it appears to me that this is an act which will get copycats. Not in the same way, obviously, but the pattern might be similar. Our system is going through an existential crisis, I think at least some people will agree with that.
But you have to be young – 27, the age of Kurt Cobain when he died, and many other illustrious people – to do such a wicked thing that damages the lives of so many families in a way which cannot be repaired, thinking that the sacrifice of these lives is worth it for a bigger good. Changing the current socio-economic system, that seems to be leading humanity to its destruction and to vast inequities, no matter how much we discuss SDGs and the like, might not have been Andreas Lubitz’ motive. His only religion, bordering obsession, was flying, we read. I have no doubt that in the coming weeks we will hear him describe in the media as a tormented soul, with a relation crisis triggering him and psychiatric issues, to try to ‘explain’ what he did. So rather than a whistleblower he can perhaps be considered more as a symptom of the existential crisis of the world’s economic system.
Nobody can look into the head of the co-pilot, so one can only guess what he meant when saying to his former girlfriend that he wanted to do something to change the system. It appears his intention was more related to the flying business, than anything else. Yet, if he had wanted to be a “whistleblower” on where this socio-economic system is leading us towards, and get maximum exposure, this is how one would do it:
You are a co-pilot of a low budget airline (one of the symbols of everything that is efficient as well as dead wrong about our system), and you take the plane down, in an act of horror which guarantees you the full attention of world media (and the stock markets, supposedly the weak spot where you can hit ‘the system’ the most).
This is probably not what he had in mind. I’m just saying it could have been his motive or the motive of potential copy-cats.
So although Andreas was probably not a “whistleblower” on our system in this sense, I expect more of these (explicit or implicit) ‘whistleblowers’ to appear in the coming years. You might call them the ‘Kamikazes’ of our times. It’s no coincidence that Andreas might have had some psychological issues – unlike what people claim, people with mental issues might perhaps not see very clear in their own lives, but they often see clearer in the implications of ‘the broader system’ and the world.
If you wonder what a proper ‘Theory of change’ looks like to steer this destructive system in another, more sustainable direction, this is what it might take. Whistleblowers throwing sand in the key mechanisms of the capitalist system, by getting worldwide attention for incomprehensible acts they commit. But they will do huge damage on innocent lives in the process, and on the ones staying behind. Which is why they will probably be young.
When you get older, you realize nothing is worth this sort of ‘sacrifice of human lives for a supposedly higher good’, even if it seems ‘cost-effective’, from the point of human lives saved in the long run. Worse, you copy the instrumentalist and ‘efficiency’ logic of the system you’re fighting then. But I’m afraid that won’t stop them.
As for the synchronicity experienced by my family member, I asked my Buddhist mentor this morning – I hate to call him my ‘master’, being a bit of an anarchist (even if he is so, spiritually speaking, without any doubt) – what synchronicity means in the Buddhist view. He said Buddhism acknowledges this exists, and sees it as lines crossing each other – which force one to stand still for a while and reflect on it. But Buddhism definitely shies away from seeing an overall ‘higher meaning or design’, a Grand Scheme or Super Consciousness, so to say, in experiences of synchronicity. And they can be good or bad experiences. But there is no ‘Meaning’ you can attribute to them, only one meaning for this or that person, at that moment, no more than that.
As the monk is far wiser than me, I’d settle for this view. So no, there is probably no Grand Scheme pushing humanity in a certain direction, by having terrible ‘whistleblowing’ acts like the one we saw this week.
But experiencing synchronicity certainly makes one doubt.
As for the meaning I’d hope humanity draws from this horrible act, it’s already clear that’s not going to happen. Rather than focusing on the unsustainable logic of low budget flying, in the long run, already the talk is more of boosting security in the cabin even more and checking the mental health of pilots even more.