Tuesday, April 26, 2016

And This Little Piggy Cried "Me, Me, Me!" All the Way Home

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post last week: Nine Things About the Tokyo Subway That Will Drive Washington Commuters Crazy.

For those of us used to the hit-or-miss, will-it-come-or-won't-it, hope-I-don't-get-robbed-or-murdered excitement of riding the DC Metro, the concept of trains that are clean and run on time is a novel one. But what makes Tokyo's trains a lot nicer than Washington's has to do with people and their behavior. Of the nine things the article discusses about the Tokyo subway, three in particular stand out:

#2: It's Totally Orderly. In Japan, people line up and wait for people to exit the train before trying to board. In DC, it's everyone for himself/herself in a mad scrum when the doors open ... God forbid someone should make way for anyone else or avoid blocking the doors.

#3: It's Super Clean. Japanese people take their trash with them and put it in proper receptacles. In DC, commuters dump their trash wherever they want, assuming that it's someone else's job to clean it up.

#6: No Noise Pollution. Japanese trains are quiet because people use earphones with their music, and do not feel compelled to carry on loud conversations on their cell phones. In DC, everyone believes they are surrounded by a cone of silence that keeps everyone else from hearing the story of their last date, their medical problems, and their dinner plans.

This reflects how today's Americans see the world. The average American tends to value individual freedom above all else, often at the expense of recognizing any responsibilities to the larger society of which he is a part. An example is the furor over "open carry" laws in many states, where those who reject any limits on their Second Amendment right to bear arms do not care about the chilling effect their actions might have on those who take a more nuanced view of public armament, and who can't tell whether that fellow walking down the street with a loaded AR-15 is a "good guy with a gun" or a "bad guy with a gun."

We object to the "Nanny State" issuing laws we believe inhibit our individual rights. What business is of the government whether I wear a helmet to ride a motorcycle? If I want to smoke anyplace, why shouldn't I be allowed to? The Second Amendment says my right to keep and bear arms won't be infringed, so back the hell off with your limits.

We tend always to think of rights and freedoms, and not of responsibilities. I don't particularly care if you wear a motorcycle helmet or not, but if you get injured and require hugely expensive medical care you can't afford, it becomes my problem when my medical costs go up to cover your freedom. I don't care if you smoke, but I do care if my health is endangered when you do it ... you don't need to smoke, but I need to breathe. And we won't discuss the gun issue any more, because there's no point.

Clean subways that run on time and are peaceful and orderly are nice. People who take the time to think about the effect of their actions on others are nice, too.

But you don't find many of them here.

Have a good day. Remember the Golden Rule*. More thoughts tomorrow.


* For those who may have forgotten, it is "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It is not "Screw you, I'm doing what I want."


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Americans do have this self-centeredness in public space, without consideration of others except to regard them as inconviences. It makes things hard sometimes.

Those people who check their smart phones during a movie, or text: Grrr!

Anemone said...

An environment with respectful use of cell phones, YES!

Mike said...

Did you ever think of carrying a signal jammer on the subway?

Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer said...

The FCC prohibits that.

allenwoodhaven said...

Now that is a gold standard we should have!

Mariette said...

I wish people behaved better on trains and subways.