Because we live in a society where competition and self-absorbtion are promoted through our social structures, I offer here a public service to the residents of and visitors to the city of New York.
Since the powers that be exhibit and stoke the degradation of all human interaction, I consider basic human kindness an important form of resistance. Read and adhere to the 5 guidelines below, and you will be partaking in a limited yet socially desirable struggle to make our world a little less soul-sucking.
- If you detest being touched by strangers while standing or sitting, hearing the most intimate details of others’ social lives and smelling a variety of human scents, might I suggest Montana as an alternative? I hear it’s quite spacious. Eight million people live here and with the exception of many severely handicapped folks, all but the wealthiest who prefer traffic jams to expedited travel, ride the subway and it is simply impossible to avoid human contact in all its inglorious forms. Deal with it or leave.
- One simple physics law dictates subway etiquette—two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time. This is an erudite way of explaining that when entering a subway car, walk the fuck in and get out of the way of the doors!
- If you are incapable of sitting with your legs together so as to make room for others, you are either inexplicably rude or your genitals require medical attention. If it is the latter, please tend to this serious condition; if it is the former, you have lost all claims to a seat on the New York City subway at times when it is packed.
- If you have a seat during rush hour, you are a temporary member of the subway aristocracy, which does not absolve you of paying some attention to the others in the car. For example: refusing to give up your seat to an injured person, a pregnant woman, an elderly person or anyone else requiring a seat more than you is a sign that you are an anti-social low life, unfit to live in a major cosmopolitan center. Period.
- The subway floor is not an appropriate place to spit. The ubiquitous Duane Reades, CVS’s, Rite Aides, etc. all sell convenient little carrying packs of tissues for less than a dollar. Buy one, keep it on you, and deal with your needs in a socially acceptable manner.
P.S. I received a note of disagreement from a good friend, Brian Jones, regarding this post. In it he makes a number of valid remarks about the crowded subway cars and infrequent trains being a structural problem and takes issue with my code of behavior. While I totally agree that we should of course agitate for a better, more efficient, cheaper and less crowded subway system, I stand by my blog post. Here’s how I responded to his Facebook note:
While of course there is a structural problem with the fact there are too few subway cars and they come too infrequently, etc. I disagree with my good friend Brian. Having a class analysis, IMO, does not preclude advocating social behavior that allows for people to live together in crowded cities in a way that eases social interactions. Yes, while bourgeois moralists reduce all human behavior to individual choices, Marxists don’t deny human agency. One can both have a class analysis of the roots of selfish behavior AND advocate for politeness. We have freedom within a cell, as Marx once put it—we can’t control our incomes, but we can say excuse me.
The Web site for Socialism 2011: Revolution in the Air (July 1–4) in Chicago is up and running and now includes a full list of talks. I will be there speaking on The Myths of Zionism. Don’t sit fuming at the status quo. And don’t deny yourself the best opportunity this year for a weekend of thoughtful analysis, accessible debate and fun with others who feel like you do about the world.
Check it out and register now—http://www.socialismconference.org/info.