I have waited for a bit before publishing a blog entry on Germanwings. It was my feeling that between my Vimeo video (see the Vimeo link in the media and consulting tab on this website) and my How to Survive a Secondhand Disaster (in this blog section); I felt I had pretty much covered it. Moreover it was my sense that the co-pilot must have been psychotic. I will follow up on that point in a moment.
I have been hearing the same old call to essentially, end such disasters. Good luck with that. There will always be a selection of people who are beyond the third deviation of the binomial distribution (the Bell Shaped Curve). These people will be mentally ill enough and smart enough to find a way. Please; people smuggle drugs into prisons. Finding a way to down a plane will be relatively easy by comparison.
No one likes when their illusion of immortality is shattered by plane crashes, natural disasters, or terrorism. However, it gets even harder to wrap one’s head around when such a tragedy occurs without an understandable way to categorize it.
Predictably, the next public outcry was for a push to further regulate the industry. The debate between public safety and individual privacy was once again rekindled. Should doctors have a duty to report? Should cameras be put in the cockpit? Should two people always be required to be in the cockpit? All of these questions are, in general, worthy and noble points to be debated. However a simpler more practical solution to end the possibility of this exact accident re-occurring would to be to equip the cockpit with a bathroom. However, that won’t restore any sense of immortality. Nor will that (or any) particular solution prevent the next security hack.
Now,I am not cold to this horrible act. I am stunned that this man could knowingly and willingly kill babies, kids, people who were counting on his ability as a pilot to land them home safely. Surely, he must have seen them as he walked down the jet way. This was obviously not an impulsive decision. This was not a terrorist/religious based act of horror. This was one man. He was a man with no vendetta against anyone on board (as far as we know.) This was one man who wanted to kill himself and insisted on getting his 15 minutes of fame. So much were these 15 minutes important to him that I, for one, refuse to mention his name.
When the first whispers of this accident being a suicide started, I was waiting for his history of psychosis to be revealed. First, there was the suggestion that it was depression. (If so, in my opinion it had to be with psychotic features.) Then the treatment facility denied that his treatment was for depression. Again, my assumption was a psychotic disorder. That line was followed with a mention of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. All I can say as a psychologist trying to connect that disorder with this act is: “huh?!”
Over the weekend I heard (for a minute –) that he had received injections of an anti-psychotic medication. Usually, injectables are either for emergent situations or for long-term compliance issues. Either of those indications suggests this man should never be allowed to fly again – even by himself. As of this moment I have not heard anti-psychotics mentioned except for those few repeated reports this weekend. That may well be the story. Who knows? Perhaps his anger at the loss of his dream at the hands of others somehow got turned into what happened. To me that is still psychotic.
I have heard people asking what goes into the makings of a murder/suicide. Aside from religious (or not) terrorism usually the murdered are known to the suicide. This was not your typical murder suicide. Though technically, that is what it was; to me that is a poor description for this case. This was (to me) the act of a powerless man losing his dream with a psychotically distorted need to be godlike and to have godlike power to make others suffer as he was himself suffering (at God’s hands?), and to be an important “big” man in the world.
No legislation and no power on earth is ever going to erase the tail ends of the bell shaped curve. That and repeated over exposure to this and every other of the more and more frequently occurring acts of horror delivered 24/7 (over so many media) will ever make it easier to comprehend. It will, however, make it more attractive to those who need what is now becoming 5 not 15 minutes of fame.
There is nothing that can be done to eliminate it. It is a matter of having our veil of immortality lifted more and more often – and psychologically adjusting into the downside of our technologies. We live in an ever smaller and smaller world.