Are we beginning to lose our humanity?
JetBlue's recent FlyBabies promotion really disturbed me.
It seems to me that marketing over the years has taken such a consumer-catered approach that we are starting to believe that the world really does revolve around us individually. We're starting to live in a bubble where there is an expectation of tailored experiences that are void of the elements of humanity that we don't want to deal with. We don't get to hand-select those elements when we enter into the public sphere. Babies crying are part of the human eco-system.
Yes, lest we forget in our personalized, individually tailored worldly experiences, that we are all part of a bigger eco-system that involves other people, and pain, and crying, and arguing, and smells, and a long list of other things that one might consider 'inconvenient' or downright annoying, but that come along with being a part of society.
The beginning of this video addresses the very real fear and discomfort of parents (specifically, mothers) about to embark on a journey with their child. The stress about remembering everything for the baby is natural and an issue that a parent just has to deal with - after all, a great deal of added responsibility comes along with the choice to have a baby. However, the burden of fear and nerves that a parent will be frowned upon as 'that lady with the baby' makes me sad. Have we really done this to other human beings in our own desire to exist in the most comfortable situations for ourselves as possible? Made parents nervous to travel because they might get 'dirty looks' and have everyone around them 'really wishing that they weren't on the plane?' I truly hope that I have showed greater compassion to parents in this situation, despite my own desire to be comfortable.
I saw reactions to this video calling it 'heartwarming' and 'inspiring.' Headlines like the one below that referred to this promotion as 'JetBlue teaching passengers to love crying babies.' JetBlue did not teach anything about 'love' or 'loving babies' - it taught customers to rejoice and celebrate the pain and discomfort of babies because they will profit and benefit from it. What kind of message is this? Is this what the media defines as 'love' now?
Trust me - I am well aware that being on a cross-country flight with a screaming baby is definitely annoying. I would much rather be on the flight next door where people paid the same amount for their ticket and get to ride in peace. But to be at a place in life where we expect compensation because a very natural occurrence - a baby crying - has 'inconvenienced' us or made us 'uncomfortable' on our flight is pretty scary. Yes, we pay a lot to fly. That doesn't give us the right to dehumanize the experience. Babies are a part of society and part of humanity, and crying is a part of the human experience - whether we are the baby ourselves (hello, we've all cried before) or the adult in proximity of the crying. We kind of just have to put our big-kid pants on and deal with it.
Babies are learning and being taught and in the meantime, have no way to communicate their discomfort but crying. If you are more concerned about your personal experience than the pain and discomfort of a baby - a little human - and even that baby's parents - then truly, the lack of compassion you have disturbs me. Yes - annoying. Yes - not ideal. But if your number one response is 'get that baby off this plane' or 'I expect financial compensation because a baby is crying' then I'm seriously concerned for the condition of your heart.
Admittedly, my own internal response to a baby crying on a plane is generally "Are you kidding? This sucks! Poor baby - I feel bad for that baby, he/she must be so uncomfortable. I feel bad for that baby's parents. I also feel bad for me because I have to listen to it. But hey, that's just life, now, isn't it? Looks like I'll be taking this flight with the earplugs/music in." I would seriously have to reject financial compensation for just dealing with life - that's part of being a human living in a society with other humans.
I feel the need to interject here with a side-note that I am expecting my first child, but recognize that these are views I have held long before being pregnant; before even knowing if I wanted children. It's not about being the parent or being the passenger - it's about being a compassionate human being and part of society.
I happen to love flying JetBlue. I have always loved my experiences with the company. In fact, I can say that I truly appreciate the mission and the intention of the promotion.
Elizabeth Windram, JetBlue's director of brand management and advertising, shared this statement with TODAY:
"JetBlue's mission is Inspiring Humanity, and we love to look for opportunities to bring people together. People smile at babies everywhere, except on planes! For Mother's Day, we wanted to acknowledge how moms (indeed all parents and caregivers) often feel stressed while traveling with children. We hoped to shed light on how hard it can be to fly with a baby and show how a little caring, even a simple smile, can really help improve the situation for everyone. We are also proud to highlight how caring our crewmembers are every day to all our customers."
I did not leave this video feeling inspired - I felt sad; maybe even a little sick. Has it escaped no one's attention that this was a plane full of adults clapping at a baby crying? A plane full of adults who were motivated by money to celebrate the discomfort of tiny little people? How is that 'heartwarming?' My personal opinion, having watched this video and having read numerous responses to it, has been that humanity has not been inspired, but rather, been made to feel justified in their responses and behaviors. What I saw in this video was a burden and fear society has placed on mothers and parents who fly. I saw a plane full of people 'encouraged' by money, not 'inspired' by compassion. What so many other people saw was "Woohoo, go JetBlue, finally compensating people for crying babies on planes!"
Let's not for one second think that there was any encouragement or teaching about love or compassion through this promotion. This was a momentary fix to a greater human-heart issue that did little more than make a flight easier for a few parents and free for a few passengers.
JetBlue - your effort to shine light on the struggle of mothers/parents in flight did not go unnoticed. However, the brighter light seems to be shining on some greater human-compassion issues that we are facing as a society. It was not 'caring, even a simple smile' that improved the situation for everyone. What improved the situation on that flight was you offering monetary compensation to people, which in turn caused them to 'show a little caring, even a simple smile.' JetBlue, you showed me that we need to be paid to be compassionate in moments of inconvenience.
In this, you have managed to teach people that they are justified and deserving of a cry-free flight. That they do, in fact, 'deserve' to be compensated when a baby has a very natural response to discomfort on a plane - and to celebrate that discomfort if it means profiting from it. You missed the mark on 'inspiring humanity.' I am a human, and I left this video feeling sad enough to need to write about it.
That said, thank you, JetBlue, for being bold enough to create this video and take on this issue. It's an unfortunate reflection of what we seem to really care about. You have stimulated the public's interest, and conversations can happen as a result - conversations that I hope lead to some self-reflecting and change. Well done.
Are you someone who applauded the free flights in this video, recognizing how frustrating it can be to fly with a crying child on board? Or did your compassion for the mothers and babies outweigh the needs of the passengers wanting a comfortable flight?
I'm afraid that more people will say they applauded the free flights, which has been the overall response I have seen to this video. If that's you - my aim here is truly not to attack or condemn you. It's merely writing from my heart to ask each and every one of us to reflect on this: have we managed to be convinced that our own comfort and compensation is more valuable than our compassion for our neighbors?
Are we beginning to lose our humanity?