I haven’t been compelled to write something in awhile, but this picture and the accompanying story at the star motivated me. From the article, it seems it’s gone quite viral. It seems topical in reference to my last article “Life is not Fair.” Here we have a woman (the article further points out a “white” woman) imposing her views on shared etiquette on a man (the article points out a man of non-white skin) with righteous indignation. This is ever-so-exactly the type of Fairness Nazi that I was annoyed with.
To both inform and save you from the details, the article and attendant viral video, so a young man with his feet on the seat of a apparently mostly empty subway car in Toronto. Enter a woman who sees this and decides to “teach him a lesson” by sitting on his feet. Then this all escalates. He pushes, she presses the panic stop for the train, security comes. Entertainment for the masses and apparently validation of righteous indignation and judgement for some who view it.
It’s not that she may not have a point (she may). It’s also not that the power dynamic maybe skewed (it may). There’s a principle here. Taking from my Christian background (and I“m not well versed enough to know how ubiquitous this concept is, but I choose to believe that it is shared), Jesus teaches that it is not our place to judge.
Why do I feel that this should be a shared belief? Certainly there are judges in society. Even among Orthodox Christianity, old men in robes hold judgement over others (although I must say, the current Pope is refreshingly, blessedly, and venerably restrained in his judgement). I hold that this should be a shared belief because the average person exercising “common” sense is sorely lacking in context to make most judgements.
Personally, I can think of at least one good reason why someone might put their feet up that we should all tolerate. I suffer from a fungus that occasionally allows opportunistic bacteria to infect my legs. Especially when things are not well and especially after walking some distance, elevating my legs can both bring relief and halt further damage that I will pay for somewhat later. Pressure in the legs isn’t uncommon. Seems like a design flaw in humans, if you ask me. This is just one reason that it might be acceptable, however, to be used as an illustrative example.
I’m not implying that everyone should put their feet on the seat or that other people should be denied a seat due to someone’s (then) impolite footrest. Our ability to function in public isn’t due to a rigid set of rules but rather a fluid set of accommodations and conventions that we all stretch and test in one way or another. Like any “law” these change over time and have varying degrees of compliance.
Do you occasionally talk too loud? Do you attempt to change people’s behavior by making them uncomfortable? Do you have a pet that isn’t properly trained? Do you have an irritable bowel? All these things and hundreds more can be considered out of context to be failures to accept and assimilate to the implied social contract.
Consider: We all judge. From a Christian perspective, even those quiet thoughts are a sin. Acting on judgements out of context goes from being a technical sin to a very real sin. Acting out a judgement with righteous indignation is a sin of pride on top. There are several ways this could have played out. Without knowing, I’m willing to assume that this woman had, in the passed, asked people to be more polite and had this more polite (and more within the social contact) rebuffed. Maybe not every time. many people can react in kind when called out, but often enough that she (possibly) felt that escalation was necessary.
But even that is a judgment. I can’t know what was in her head. In effect, I can’t know her context. I can only marvel at the consequences of her actions and point out to anyone who would hold this as an example of justice… that no apparent justice was obtained.