Preserving absolute freedom

moodie108Martin Moodie, founder and chairman, The Moodie Davitt Report

“My holy of holies is the human body, health, intelligence, talent, inspiration, love, and the most absolute freedom imaginable, freedom from violence and lies, no matter what form the latter two take.” – Anton Chekhov

As I pen this special column for the Duty Free Show of the Americas, the airport industry is still reeling from the March 22 terrorist atrocities in Brussels. Those attacks, like those in Paris, Istanbul, Ivory Coast, Ankara, and so many others in our recent troubled times, represent the antithesis of the great Russian playwright and short story writer Chekhov’s state of “absolute freedom.”

The violence played out in an airport departures hall and the related slaughter of the innocent is based on lies, of course. Lies of the most fundamental (and fundamentalist) kind. Lies that terror and death and fear ever solve anything. Lies that they form part of any legitimate religious agenda. Lies that they in any way address or balance perceived injustice or oppression elsewhere.

Violence is always repulsive; when it reaches the level of atrocity, it is abhorrent. Yet what can our world — and indeed, our industry — do in the face of a mentality that sees tourists as legitimate targets and reason as a redundant complication? The answer, at least in part, is that we have to refuse to kowtow to the aims of the perpetrators while doing all that is reasonably sensible to protect the innocent.

In that difficult context, I applaud the reaction from Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, itself based in Brussels, in the immediate, emotional aftermath of the latest attacks. The association emphasized that additional security measures such as checks on persons and goods entering airport landside spaces “would essentially be moving the target rather than securing it.”

It continued: “These attacks are not limited to disrupting our transport systems, but are clearly about threatening our entire way of life by targeting other public spaces, including places of social gathering and entertainment. Ultimately, fully securing public spaces through additional security checks would be unrealistic and inefficient. The best way forward in the fight against terrorism is to step up capabilities for the gathering, coordination, and sharing of intelligence and data.”

Not everyone will agree, of course. Airports Council International (ACI) Europe Director General Olivier Jankovec acknowledges that some European interior ministries or political figures might want to take action that makes a statement, but he doubts the resultant effectiveness. To be consistent with the systematic screening of people entering landside areas, the authorities would have to do the same for any number of popular public spaces, he warns, “and that becomes unrealistic.”

Not just unrealistic. It threatens every fabric, every sinew, and every tenet of a fair and just society. Absolute freedom lost. And lies perpetuated.