The world was horrified by a video emerging from a United Airlines flight at O’Hare international airport in Chicago, showing 69-year-old grandfather and physician Dr David Dao being forcibly dragged from the overbooked plane by the police.
Having been asked to leave the plane, Dr Dao refused on the grounds that he had to return home to see his patients. In an astonishing act of cruelty, Dr Dao was then violently forced out, leaving him with a concussion, broken nose and two missing teeth. The video quickly went viral and has already been viewed by millions world-wide, many of whom also expressed their shock and outrage on social media.
This has since prompted a hasty apology from United CEO Oscar Munoz, who claimed (not without hypocrisy) that “No one should ever be mistreated this way.” The officers involved in the incident have now been suspended and Dao has begun legal action against both the airline and the Chicago police force.
Perhaps the most shocking fallout, however, has been from Dr Dao’s lawyer Thomas Demetrio, who relayed the description that “being dragged down the aisle was more horrifying and harrowing than what [Dao] experienced when leaving Vietnam”.
It is telling of the extent of the fear incited by the inhumane actions of the airline that Dr Dao, having been a refugee from his home country during the Vietnam War, would describe fleeing the Fall of Saigon as preferable to being on an overbooked United Airlines flight.
Here we see the bare-faced brutality of capitalism. The very concept of overbooking flights to avoid even the slightest loss in profits, without regard for customer safety or security, shows evidently that the logic of capitalism has simply become cruelty and abuse.
Moreover, there is an odious racist undercurrent to Dao’s treatment, that is surely linked to a general xenophobic sentiment stirred up demagogically by Donald Trump. The man was treated as less than human. Moreover, attempts to retroactively ‘justify’ the actions of the police by revealing Mr Dao’s alleged criminal record ring hollow.
This tragic incident reveals again that authority under capitalism resides not with the law or with any higher ideals of ‘righteousness’ or ‘justice.’ Authority under capitalism is the authority of the capitalist to gain profit by any necessary means. This has been shown by Mr Munoz’ continual reluctance to resign, despite over 150 000 people having signed a petition for him to step down and accept responsibility for this atrocity.
Indeed, as if to rub salt into Dr Dao’s numerous wounds, Munoz initially described him as ‘disruptive and belligerent’ to have refused to leave the plane. Yet it seems that no degree of belligerence can quite match the systemic barbarism that capitalism faces us with.
Overall, United Airlines must serve as a reminder that capitalism cannot meet the needs of society, whether that be in terms of resource distribution or even basic respect and care. Only a socialist economy, with appropriately distributed resources to meet the needs of all individuals in society, can begin to resolve the problems faced by the world today. Only a democratically controlled workplace can ensure an end to the brutality experienced by Dr Dao and others.
When capitalism presents us with barbarism, we must fight to end not only this or that instance of barbarity, but the system at the root of it all!