Full disclosure: Governments the world over have always kept secrets, and guarded them with a ferocious devotion beyond even new mothers in the Serengeti. The cold calculations of the likes of James Bond and Jason Bourne operating in and with secrecy fuels the imagination to conjure images of legions of them working relentlessly for the governments.
The distorted lines between fact and fiction were removed altogether when along came WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, and the technology savvy geek armies. Faced with irrefutable proof that there was no full disclosure and probably no privacy, the comfortable façade of Bond, Bourne, and company removed, the world realised how much of a lie it is made to live by those in power.
Man’s new best friend became the internet, the very same tool that the governments use for their wicked deeds and the geeks use to uncover the evil. People took to it to spin ever more absurd conspiracy theories. Except, in the 21st century, the much-maligned tin-foil hat has become a badge of honour. Walmart will have a sale on them soon, ethically made in China no doubt.
When an aeroplane vanishes without a trace and remains missing for over a week without any explanations in such a world, the immediate reaction is one of unbridled, almost gleeful conspiracies. There is almost a desire for the search for answers to be prolonged to allow increasingly elaborate plots to be thought up. Extra-terrestrial abduction, a new Bermuda triangle, secret government experiment, one or more governments covering their tracks regarding some misdeed, one or more governments acting pre-emptively to prevent an enemy from gaining an advantage, hijacking, an act of terrorism – everything is plausible, nothing is too bizarre.
It is impossible for the common man, armed with the knowledge that his location can accurately be tracked if he uses his mobile or some similar form of technology, to comprehend that an aircraft nearly 210 feet long and with a wingspan of almost 200 feet can simply disappear. It is inconceivable in the age of technology that the manner in which planes are tracked – with there being no real-time documentation of any flight, partly owing to legal complications and security issues that arise out of logging this data – leaves so much to be desired that over 168 hours after this inexplicable disappearance, nothing can conclusively be stated by the authorities.
They have tried to reassure the world. 10 of the total of 158 passengers, all deceased, of Air India Flight 812 that crashed in 2010 were travelling on forged or stolen passports. Sorry world, security checks are far from perfect, but rest easy because illegal immigration is more common than terrorism.
The last pieces of Air France Flight 447 that went down in 2009, crucially amongst them the black boxes and answers, were found over two years after the crash that killed all 228 people on board. Less reassuring is the irritating fact that debris had been located five days after the crash, and general crash and debris sites had been charted shortly after. The mysterious case of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is, therefore, a cruel conspiracy brought to life. Recent findings of the investigators – that the transponder had been shut down, the automated tracking system had been turned off, and that the Aircraft Communications and Addressing Reporting System had been silenced – coupled with the alarming change of direction long after the last communication and the absence of any distress signal or message points to there being no other explanation.
Amongst all the speculation and the fanatical fantasies attempting to make sense of a situation in which the only fact seems to be that there is a dearth of fact is one truth: There were 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board Flight MH370. They represent 14 nationalities, countries that are trying not to lose hope for their lost sons and daughters. 24 of the 153 Chinese are national treasures – a distinguished group of calligraphers, artists who had attended a cultural exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. 1 of the 3 Americans was making one last trip to China before settling in Malaysia with a new job, 1 of the 5 Indians and his Chinese wife were returning home to their children, 2 of the 38 Malaysians were going on their honeymoon.
The 239 people and their loved ones still praying for their safe return represent the only thing that really matters in all of this: Human life and the fact that more can always be done to preserve it.