Social Incivility

People are sheep, or so the saying goes. Another is monkey see, monkey do. Analogies are fine but often get lost in the translation, that being of encoding and decoding a thought through a communication channel. People are heard animals, pack animals, complacent for the most part. We are however highly susceptible to bad thought and the infections of bad behavior.

Many a sociology lecture have been given on mob mentality, group think, and the influence of outliers to overall group dynamics. In the last millennium inciting a riot, leading a group, or infecting people with thoughts required direct contact. At the end of the century we started to witness the contagious infection over a distance by pure exposure, the L. A. riots after the acquittal of the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating. The riots, their massive televised coverage, remember this was pre internet era, exported the riots to Tampa and West Los Vegas as well as Atlanta. The 24 hour news cycle and race to keep viewers seemed to spawn rioters influenced, inspired, and emboldened by the scenes of complete lawlessness and mayhem of the situation.

In our modern instant information society it seems the contagion is not only easily spread but is lighting the fuse for an increasing dry and fractured self image in our hyper sensitive constant censored society. People, normal people, are now blowing up and spewing their displeasure with out lifestyle in the most curious of situations, airliners. There are so many analogies presented by the 3 incidents within 2 weeks where the ultimate herd mentality experience we have, air travel, is now showing outliers venting and spreading. When the wholly volunteer situation of air travel and all that people go through for it it certainly makes the forced landings of planes to deal with seat reclining grievances make you wonder what the under current is feeding this.

Get away from the distraction of the reclining seat, ever growing rows of seats on planes, shrinking seat room and leg space, business solutions of devices like the knee defender, etc. surface issues and look at the layers underneath and we get a detailed vision of our modern society, it’s failures, and the darker side of human decency in today’s society.

Intolerance is the main theme seen in all these situations. From passengers who are so selfish as to disrupt or complain about the comfort of their fellow passengers, to airlines intolerance of customer comfort, to customer satisfaction indifference, to pilots intolerance of cabin disruptions, we have multiple layers. This reminds me mostly of the last decade’s zero tolerance policies that have led to police and legal involvement for those bringing aspirin, plastic knives, t-shirts, home made desserts, or anything resembling or referring to a firearm. Our society is so censured and mediated we have something like a reclining seat lead to physical altercations and demands for flights to be diverted costing airlines money, passengers time, and everyone involved an experIence that adds to the sentiment that flying is the worst mode of travel, ever.

Flying used to be a luxury, an experience unto itself, a way to quickly and safely travel great distances and leave behind the mundane of land based life for a few hours. Today it reminds me more of delivering animals to the slaughterhouse. Herded through ever narrowing chutes into staging areas where inspections, poking, prodding, and frustrations build as time flies by pressing everyone into more of a panic over being too late. Add in the advertised prices which are a whimsical lie as fee after fee and tax after tax are layered upon the ticket making it balloon and giving the impression we were doped from the get go. Add in the lines, baggage debacle, security fiasco, pushing and shoving over decreasing space leads to very unhealthy mental situations.

Doing selfish things for personal benefit at the expense of those next to us runs counter to all the messages we have heard since birth. We know that unless we standup for ourselves others will take advantage of us turning into an ever escalating internal war of comfort over social norms that no longer exist. We are told to act one way yet we never see this occur anymore. When an outlier runs counter to the ideal but resonating to the perceived reality of our society, and no real social consequences communicated we fail over from sheep mode to monkey see mode.

The news and debate is focused on the actions, not the causes nor most importantly, the consequences for such actions. Seldom have I seen it reported these 6 people on 3 separate flights facing real consequences. I am not speaking about arrests, fines, or banning from airlines. I am speaking to the lack of social commentary on how stupid, selfish, infantile, entitled, and petty behaviors. So few discussions on how this impacts their fellow passengers who have been inconvenienced at best and down right financial losses for missing connecting flights, returning home late, missing meetings or obligations impacting their lives far beyond getting home 2 hours late. Where are the airlines injecting the costs for fuel, concourse fees, pay for ground crew, overtime for pilots and stewardesses and stewards, the impact to pilots flight hours which are tightly regulated and controlled, air traffic controllers who have to clear air space, re-prioritize landing schedules, alter other incoming airplanes, and the airport personnel and police who must respond taking them away from their normal duties. Where are these debates and conversations that address the impact of their actions, overall impacts and costs in money and time to all directly and indirectly involved.

Unless we see large scale social berating and condemnation of such selfish acts over a reclined seat Ina situation you personally put yourself into, well we can expect to see occur again and again. Meanwhile the debate will be only focused on the recline pro and con group, marketplace solutions, airline policies, et al. The real conversation needs to be directed into the social component. Seeing how censored our society is today, we are shamed for thing something we don’t like is wrong, something we think is funny, something thought is wrong, evil, and worthy of shame and scorn it is curious this behavior isn’t being dissected the way gay football players are, transgender drivers license seekers, juvenile offenders who rob stores are shot, politicians relax and play golf as the world burns down around them, and so forth and so on. I suppose when this is done to an actual minority or protected class we will see this conversation through the lens of intolerance and self loathing, adding more kindling to the pile awaiting a spark.

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