In my books God's Debris and The Religion War I imagined a world where there is only "one Avatar at a time." This Avatar, an old man who is the smartest human in the world, has only one duty: When the people of the world get attached to destructive ideas, as they tend to do periodically, his job is to replace those ideas with notions more productive. I have been reminded of this fiction lately because we have been living in an environment of toxic ideas for the past several years.

The economy has been in a tailspin, with one shock after another. Fear, mistrust, and pessimism are running high. Those are the very ideas that are most harmful to a financial recovery. Even more worrisome has been the lack of belief in the competence of those in charge. From Katrina to Iraq to the economic downturn it seemed as if old-fashioned know-how has disappeared. Somehow we just forgot how to get things done.

Many Americans put their faith in Barack Obama to right the ship. And perhaps he will help. But at this point he is mostly promises and good intentions. We wish him well, but he is a politician and certainly not an avatar.

Then a funny thing happened. A 57-year old pilot in an Airbus A320 had a chance encounter with a flock of geese soon after takeoff. You know the rest of the story. He lost both engines and still managed to glide his airliner to a perfect splash landing in the Hudson, saving the lives of everyone onboard. And the world was astonished at his skills.

We keep learning more about this pilot, Chesley Sullenberger III. This was no lucky landing. Sullenberger, or Sulley as he is known by friends, was a straight-A student in school, with a genius level IQ. He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy as the top aviator in his class of 1973. He majored in psychology at the academy and used that knowledge to open a safety-consulting firm on the side. He was also an experienced glider pilot, which comes in handy if your airliner loses its engines. In short, this pilot, considered an old man by many standards, had acquired over his lifetime every skill necessary for this specific situation, and he executed perfectly.

If you went anywhere this weekend, you probably found yourself in conversations about this pilot and this event. And the thing you probably talked about was his outrageous level of competence. You might have gotten chills when you heard about it. Maybe you teared up. At the very least it impressed the hell out of you. But something more fundamental happened too. This one pilot changed all of us. He reminded us what competence means and he proved in spectacular fashion that it still exists.

I think the economy will struggle for some time to come, but I'm calling this the bottom. The first sign of the turnaround is a turnaround in attitudes, especially in such things as consumer confidence. Thanks to the Avatar (or aviator if you prefer) that turnaround starts now.

Thanks, man.
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+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 19, 2009
Phantom Parting shot: Being egotistical enough to say you have a "genius IQ" is dumb.
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 19, 2009
lol I guess where the cabin where the pilot sits in an airplane does sound dirty and deserves to be filtered.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 19, 2009
I don't know about the turning point for the economy... but it is nice to see a good news story. Nice mix of the right person being in the !$%*!$% and getting lucky.

I imagine the probability of landing a plane in the Hudson safetly looks something like Pr(Welive!!)=(1-G)*x G*g where x is pilot experience (takes values between 0 and 1), g is god's will, and G is an indicator function which is 1 if you are PhantomII and 0 otherwise. Presumably if G=1, x exists but doesn't really matter since its all going to come down to whether God is feeling vengeful today.
Jan 19, 2009
Scott said: "Even more worrisome has been the lack of belief in the competence of those in charge."

Maybe because "in charge" is an illusion. No one can manage or control the economy, and when they try, we get economic collapse. If they then try to "fix it" we get a depression.

It is up to you and me, in spite of "laws" or Rulers, to take control and MAKE this a better world. Don't wait for someone else to take the first step.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 19, 2009
This was brought to my attention by my nephew....

"He failed to mention one thing about CAPT Sullenburg; leadership. He was the last man off that aircraft. He made a sweep of the cabin to ensure all passengers and crew were out before he departed the aircraft himself. In this world of self-interest at the expense of others this sounds louder than the competence he showed."

Thanks to Mr. Adams, we can have a bit of faith in more than just the turn around.
Jan 19, 2009
That's a great piggybacking effort in furthering a positive change, Scott. Thanks for your part. The incoming Obama administration probably had the same idea in inviting him to the inauguration.
Jan 19, 2009
There is no need to make a distinction here between 'just doing his job' and 'savior'. In this instance, a pilot (normally put in charge of the lives of many people) had a far greater than usual challenge. But he had been well trained for it, had the talents and emotional makeup to handle the situation, and executed well. Thus by 'doing his job', he also became a 'savior' to his passengers.

This is a moment to celebrate. Even if you take the job the pilot was just doing something which is part of his job (ignoring the fact this was beyond the normal days flying), it is still worth celebrating. A job done well and professionally is something to celebrate.

We've become far too accepting of poor execution of jobs and poor conduct of individuals - poor conduct, criminal conduct, sub-standard conduct, unprofessional conduct, incompetent conduct, abusive conduct, etc. This is part of what allowed the economic fiasco to get rolling and part of what may prolong it.

Celebrating the people who do their jobs well, who act responsibly, professionally, and with good ethics and competence is part of !$%*!$%*! our mindset. The economic downturn and the accompanying thievery and corruption as us developing a blanket negativity which is unproductive and useless. We need to develop a very perceptive intolerance - intolerance of poor execution, of poor conduct, or poor ethics, and of poor judgment. We need to develop a positive discrimination once again for competence, ethical conduct, and professionalism. In doing so, we will help to limit the damage the next set of corporate brigands can do and we'll also start to shape our society in a direction we would wish it to head, rather than in a direction our fears unconsciously direct.

So, to the entire flight crew of that flight: Bravo! A job well done and an example well set!
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 19, 2009
In relation to Phantom II's comment and your reply, I'll go out on a limb here and say it's not just Phantom II's "personal version of God," but probably the "version" of God found in the Bible, and believed in by millions of people today.
Yes, there are some differences in the details, but the major points in a nutshell are that God loves people, people are born into opposition to God, God sent Jesus to die for the penalty for those sins, and that upon a person's acceptance of that substitutionary death, he/she is forgiven of all sin.
But Scott, you probably knew already what Christians believe, being a fairly intelligent sort of guy.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 19, 2009
Phantom II logged off before explaining why God was so merciful toward Capt. Sullenberger and the passengers on his plane, while ignoring the plight of the poor souls on United Flight 911. Does God only have time for the easy tricks, or were the 911 passengers quantitatively more wicked than the fortunate folks who splashed down in the Hudson River?

It is safe to say that Sullenberger was uniquely qualified to respond to the situation that he found himself in, and was, at the same time, remarkably lucky in all of the ways enumerated by Phantom II. However, unless one is willing for God to shoulder the blame when things go south, it is unfair to give him all of the credit when skill and luck combine to create a happy ending to a perilous situation.
Jan 19, 2009
"Fear, mistrust, and pessimism are running high. Those are the very ideas that are most harmful to a financial recovery."

Unfortunately, fear, mistrust, and pessimism are the only sane attitudes to have in this, the world's shiniest, most perfect, and most universally admired Democracy, so help us, God.
Jan 19, 2009
Oh, boy. There you go again.

Only you, Scott, could develop a mythos, act like it's real, take a particular situation and tie it to your mythos, and then tell everyone that "the bottom" has been hit because of your fantasy world vision. Perhaps you should join L. Ron Hubbard and turn this thing into a religion. At least you could make some money out of it that way.

Someone once said that when people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing - they believe in everything. Your "God's Debris," et. al., are perfect examples.

If you presented this boo-hah to Sulley Sullenberger, he would probably laugh in your face. Take it from one who had a similar background - Naval Academy versus Air Force Academy; also flew F-4's; also has a genius IQ. Trust me on this one. Sulley, that plane and everyone on board, was extremely lucky that it turned out as it did, and Sulley for sure knows it.

If the bird strike had happened sooner, or had caused the engine to explode and take the hydraulics with it, he and all those people would have been toast. To those of us with religion, it was the hand of God keeping this situation from becoming a horrible catastrophe. Sulley was just doing his job, and with God's help, made the best of a bad situation. So many things had to happen just when they did to make that plane come down in one piece, and all of those, save the decision to ditch in the river and the outstanding job of piloting that Sulley did, were completely out of his hands.

He's not an avatar. He's an extremely competent guy who got extremely lucky after a bad situation happened. So keep believing in nothing, Scott. Maybe you'll find some more avatars if you look hard enough.

You, who don't believe in anything, really, somehow actually believe this situation validates your fictional world. You might just as well toss the chicken bones and use that as your reason to say we've reached bottom in the economy. The economy is cyclical, Scott. It goes up and down. Usually when government gets involved, it makes the situation worse, not better. A bunch of lawyers pretending to be economists and spending money they don't have is not something that gives me a lot of confidence.

Stick to writing fiction, Scott. But I recommend you treat it for what it is. If you really start believing in these figments of your imagination, it may not be good for your mental health.

[So I should stop believing in figments of my imagination and start believing in your personal version of God? -- Scott]
Jan 19, 2009
I love it. Thanks, I feel more cheerful today after reading your insight. (see, the upturn continues!)
Jan 19, 2009
If this is truly the "sign" of the bottom, my mind turns to what a bargain this was. I read somewhere where a human life is worth about $10M. Assuming there were 200 passengers and crew on that plane and that the plane is worth $400M, that would be a risk of about $2 billion to cause an inspirational act be the sign of the bottom of the current recession. Compare that to the trillions of dollars that are going the be spent in real money to get us out of this, and i think that $2 billion was a risk worth taking. Of course, I knew nobody on that plane, but aren't you supposed to have a detached view of the world when your trying to solve problems?
+3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jan 19, 2009
The pilot was absolutely in the right place at the right time. I considered this sort of an "Anti-9/11", and you nailed it perfectly in terms of an event that inspires hope. Also, went and looked at Dilbertfiles.com today - nice concept, and I hope it does well for you.
Jan 19, 2009
One aspect (pardon the pun) of Avators is that they are generally hidden, or at least unsung.

So if this is the bottom, and this aviator avatar is the source of Change, then history will wind up crediting President Obama as the cause (who incidentally is another person who has demonstrated competence in the past several months). Or maybe The Stimulus Package will get the credit.

And that's ok with the pilot. He doesn't consider himself a "savior" - even of those passengers in his plane. He was just doing his job.
Jan 19, 2009
This timing also fits right in with the webbots prediction of the economy,

Also, nice plug in your comic today.
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