A Conceit of Accountability

Let me present you with a theoretical construct. Let me present you with a horse, and his rider. Let me introduce the horse, who at the beginning of this construct, is already dead. The horse in our fabrication, sadly, has already been ridden to death. And having fallen, the horse is reviled. His good reputation is being fouled, and he is no longer able to defend himself.

And here is the question I mean to ask you:

When you ride a horse to death, whose fault is it? Is it the fault of the horse, who has no choice but to do what he does? Is it the fault of the rider who drives the horse on? Any reasonable person would blame the rider, and rightly so. It is the rider who wields the crop, that drives the horse on when it would rest. The horse is just being a horse. Perhaps we might wonder why: why is the rider such a taskmaster? Is there some great cause involved? Is there some life or lives at stake? Is there a just cause that forces the rider to set such grueling standards?

But I am getting ahead of myself. Putting the cart before the horse, if you’ll pardon the pun.

Let me explain something unique about our horse. Our horse is not an ordinary horse; he is in a unique situation. He had a certain degree of choice. He had other options. He could, perhaps, have chosen to be a cow, or a rabbit. But his essential nature, his learning, his history, his hopes and dreams–they were the learning, history, hopes and dreams of a horse–a whole life lived to one pursuit of being a horse. This horse is a horse, I should say WAS a horse, because he wanted to be. So when he was asked to perform as a horse, he did. Even though the demands that were put on him were exhausting. Even though the scheduling was unreasonable. He was a horse working longer hours, with less rest than he needed, and he paid the price.

So let us turn back to the rider. Why did the rider push so hard? Why is it the horse’s fault for falling to exhaustion, and not the rider’s fault, for driving him to it?

In fact, look at the rider now—he’s back on another horse, riding this one just as hard. In fact, riding many horses, all driven to the same point of exhaustion. And there will be more horses falling, failing. It is inevitable.

So, why is this rider pushing so hard?

It always comes down to money. For the rider, having fewer horses is more cost effective. For the rider, horses are cheap. If one drops, who cares? There are many more where he came from. Why should the rider cater to the demands of the horse–so what if the horse would like shorter hours, better pay? If he wants to be a horse, he has to work like a horse, period.

In fact, the rider could sponsor many more pilots, I mean, horses, divide the work load so that the ratio of work to worker was a reasonable load. But that option is not in the picture.

I am guessing that you have figured out that I am not speaking about horses at all. I am speaking of fallen pilots. In fact, one pilot in particular, Zlatko Glusica, the Air India pilot who was in the cockpit of the Air India Express flight that crashed and killed 158 passengers. Reputations—his and that of his copilot—are being tarred, feathered and dragged through the mud. But the pilots were not alone in that fatal cockpit. There was a third seat, occupied by fatigue, and that third seat was put there by Air India policy.

Originally Posted by George Hatcher Sunday, November 21, 2010