A couple days ago in Toronto, there was a shameful incident on a bus that ended very well.
First the incident. According to the National Post:
‘“So after work I get onto a packed 72 Pape bus and I ask this COLOSSAL DOUCHE BAG very nicely if he can please … move his bag off the seat beside him so I can sit down,” wrote Facebook user Brenda Davie in a Wednesday night post.
“He says, ‘No, my bag is there.’”
In the brief exchange that followed, according to Ms. Davie’s account, the man called her an “airhead,” stomped on her foot and then physically shoved her “into a pile of people.”’
Sweet. On a crowded bus, a man refuses to take his bag off the seat next to him so that a lady could sit down… then he assaults her. It is worth noting that the ‘man’ in question was a Q-tip armed, Olive Oyl-physiqued metrosexual.
‘In a 40-second camera phone video, the man can be seen telling a standing Ms. Davie “you get nothing, pay attention.”’
The good part of the story is that he got his comeuppance, but not from official channels.
‘“At the time I didn’t feel like standing around Pape station … for a pair of cops who would most likely be dicks and make me feel like I’m wasting their time,” she said when asked why she had not filed an assault report.’
Good for her. She would have just wasted her time, cooling her heels, just to end up completing bureaucratic paperwork. Instead, thanks to the camera footage:
‘In a matter of hours, the search for the “leprechaun,” as he has been dubbed because of his green dress shirt and tuft of chin beard, had become one of the most high-profile examples of using social media to shame violators of TTC etiquette.’
‘The overnight fame of Ms. Davie’s post is commensurate with a growing North American trend toward using social media to combat instances of alleged antisocial transit behaviour.
The Tumblr blog “Men Taking Up Too Much Space On The Train,” for one, collects images of men whose sitting position on public transit is deemed to be too luxurious.’
Did all of this attention get to the ‘Leprachaun”? According to the Post:
‘The identity of the alleged assailant remains unknown, although a source told the National Post that the man works at a downtown call centre and failed to show up to work after news of the transit incident became viral.’
That this look-at-me hipster ended up sitting at home, in the dark, with the shades drawn is the perfect ending to this story. And a good illustration of how spontaneous social shaming can function in society to control human behaviour that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) rise to the level where the criminal code needs to take over. I bet Mr. Leprechaun will behave more politely in the future (and dress more to blend in than stand out).
The alternate approach, favoured by bureaucrats and social engineers everywhere is to institute rules and bylaws and schemes and enforcement mechanisms to police the ‘microaggressions’ of everyday life. Such policies have been popular in recent decades with mixed to poor results. Indeed, on Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) vehicles, ‘designated seats’ exist with signs explaining that able-bodied people sitting there must vacate them to the elderly, the disabled or pregnant women. From what I have seen, they are ignored. Decent people give up their seats to those less fortunate regardless of where they sit, and the selfish keep behaving like the hipster leprechaun. Just a bunch of wasted tax dollars.
Unfortunately, bylaws and schemes like this are often worse than useless. Not only are they ineffective on correcting the anti-social behaviour they are meant to correct, but they can be used by bureaucrats and officials to harass perfectly innocent people for reasons that have nothing to do with the original intent of the law.
When conservatives say that society is held together by unwritten social conventions, the public shaming that Mr. Leprechaun got is precisely the kind of thing we mean. No jail, no fine and no tax dollars wasted - just corrected behaviour. And the prevalence of phone camera means that small-town social shaming has now debuted in the big city.