Thursday, November 25, 2010

airport scanners

The worst thing about having a major car accident and ending up in hospital is not waking up in the ER, it’s not even having your painkillers administered by enema, or even finding out that half your limbs won’t work properly for a good few weeks; it’s the bloody irritating mess it makes of a recently acquired pedicure.

As the product of an English boarding school education I’m a grand master at getting undressed and re-attired in a very modest fashion with the artful draping of clothing, towels, etc. It came as a very nasty shock during my stay in hospital that not only could I not dress or undress myself but that someone else had to take care of deeply personal things like wiping my bum. However, with the administration of suitable drugs I soon got the hang of it and although I can say I was never fully comfortable with it, it made me reconsider the fragile artifice that I carry around as my modesty.

I swiftly came to the realization that it is totally artificial. Mostly in the sense that, especially in a hospital, most of what I have, they have seen many, many, many times before and probably in both better and worse shape than mine and almost certainly in every shade of the currently available skin color range. And so what am I objecting to? The fact that the bits I was born with or grew into, my bits rather than anyone else’s, were going to be seen by a near-stranger? By which I mean a medically trained professional.

For a while in the late 80’s and early 90’s, the artists and paintings of the Impressionist movement were hugely popular. You couldn’t swing a dead cat without hitting another exhibition, discussion or book on the subject. Transferred onto mugs, printed onto posters, reproduced as canvasses, screened onto shopping bags, umbrellas until we all became not only sick of it but totally immune to it’s transcendent beauty, simply because it seemed to be everywhere, on everything.

“What has all this got to do with airport security?” I hear you asking. Well, I think we should all consider the wider issues (apart from the obvious elephant in the room, being blown to smithereens by a bomb concealed on a fanatical nutter) and I would humbly submit they are these:
  1. What steps are being taken to ensure that the people who have to scan our bodies all day, every day, won’t become totally immune to the simple and breathtaking beauty of the human form? Who will be there for them when they are unable to look at yet ANOTHER body, much less want to have sex with it?
  2. For those passengers going through a dry spell in their love-life, getting a pat down could be seen as the nearest thing they get to a good time, and who are we to deprive them of this modicum of fun? Because I am willing to stake a fair proportion of my not inconsiderable poverty on the fact that it’s a lot less fun for the TSA employee than it is for us.
  3. .And if a TSA employee or two are standing behind a screen laughing at whichever bits of my anatomy they find amusing, well I say, “go for it”. I’m happy to bring a little laughter into what must be a singularly thankless and largely tedious job.
And, in the final analysis, in a culture where we continually expose our intimate thoughts, secrets and ideas via social media outlets, where an alarming number of people seem to be delighted to show off their bodies to millions via an uncensored, unlegislated internet via webcam, I am at a loss to understand how, exactly, the body scanners represent an invasion.