A window on our world
This morning as I got on the train to work, I was offered a view on society that had brought expectations and personality into focus.
Expectations of others and the personality of people, both of myself and the other person involved in the incident. It got me thinking about how things are changing and why some things have come to stay.
The schoolboy who could be no more than 12 years old was sat on a 3-seater, his bag and classical musical instrument case occupying the whole space and then he had his shod feet on the seat in front of him.
Nothing particularly annoys me as much as people who put their feet on seats, especially where there are clear signs that feet should not be put on seats. Besides, even if they do take their feet off the seats, it is not like they make to clean off the dirt they might have put on those seats.
So, I motioned with my cane and intensified that with a scowl for him to take his feet off the seat, I brush it off and took my seat. Hardly, a minute after that, he decided it was too much for him, so he moved to another seat in the train carriage.
As he settled in that seat, I said to him, putting his feet on the seat was anti-social behaviour and it was important that he knew that, even if he did not like the fact that it was being pointed out to him.
Yet, in that little encounter was a whole set of narratives. A public school educated boy who had exercised a sense of entitlement in a public space without what I might call ‘anticipated consideration’ and when challenged expressed rebellious dissent by moving away.
Anticipated consideration is when, as in this case, you know that you do not put your feet on seats others might want to use and you do not occupy more seats than you have paid to occupy, especially when the train or vehicle is still at a major boarding port, like a terminal train station. It is having consideration for others long before it is demanded of you to consider and adjust.
Rebellious dissent, however, is the case where rather than acknowledge that you are wrong with contriteness and apology, you take evasive action to avoid proximity with the challenger of your behaviour.
The fear of challenge
I dare say, we now live in a society where sadly, many young people will not brook any scolding or correction, and those whose dare challenge bad behaviour run the risk of coming to harm by such people lashing out in aggravated resentment. We have a delicate balance to manage between wanting right and yet being fearful of demanding things be done right.
The question is, if as a society we for the fear of retribution maintain silence rather than challenge anti-social behaviour, what kind of society will we have?
The other nuanced narrative is in assumptions and appearances, as this young man was a day student at a public school in Hale, there are general expectations of behaviour and conduct. Whilst entitlement is drilled into their psyche, comportment has a particular importance because it moderates behaviour in polite society and defines the quality of integrity, which is what you do when nobody is watching.
Maybe I was a bit harsh
Much as I will like to explore this further, if is best left for now, because it will reflect on not just the school, but on the parenting too. Suffice it to say that having a classical instrument case does not necessarily suggest one has class or has been schooled in the decorum that pertains to performing for sophisticated audiences.
On my part, I thought about my attitude to anticipated consideration and my acceptance of the inconvenience of rebuke when I have been wrong and I might have been a tad sterner with the schoolboy because he could easily have been one of my youngest sons.
When I was his age, I would never have done what he did and surely as another black man, yes, we shared the same racial profile, we are a lot better behaved than this, especially if we have the benefit of a privileged education.