Cowardice on public transport

NaBloPoMo November 2012Travelling home from central London on a train yesterday, a bunch of eight of drunken louts got on our carriage and proceeded to spend the rest of the journey loudly singing racist and misogynist football chants (I say football, but in doing so will possibly now get loud complaints about how it has nothing to do with the culture that pervades football; it is and you know it). And aside from a tweet and the odd grimace, I did nothing.

I spent the rest of the journey home fantasising about how I should have stood up in the midst of their 5th rendition of “I’d rather be a Paki than a Yid”, announcing that I was a Jew and that they ought to be ashamed of themselves, but the fact is I didn’t (I’m not actually Jewish by the way, but I figured I could pull that off more easily than claiming to be from Pakistan). Nor did I do anything when a bunch of kids started abusing my bus driver earlier in the day for threatening to kick one of their friends off for not having the fare on his Oyster card (he actually gave in to them but still got heaped with abuse). Nor did I stick up for the passenger on my bus on Friday who told off a girl for putting her feet on the seat and got verbally assaulted by the girl and her two adult friends (possibly parents) for the rest of the journey.

I like to think I’m not a moral coward, but I’ve not exactly availed myself well recently. The worst I would have got from taking a stand in the bus incidents is a bit of abuse. In the case of the train incident, I’d have risked a physical beating but statistically speaking that probably wouldn’t have happened – and if it did, even then it would arguably have been worth it. At least that way there’d now be facing criminal charges.

Standing up to antisocial behaviour might not get you very far in the short term, but it probably doesn’t take very much to get these people to think twice in future. In the case of the girl and the group of boys, you could see the fear in their eyes – their displays of bravado were because they were terrified not because they were especially angry.

We’re probably just a few harsh words away from making our journeys on public transport a significantly better experience, and yet most of us do nothing. I sort of understand the psychological reasons for that, but ultimately I don’t really find that to be much of an excuse.

Ho hum. At least I don’t have to feel good about it. That’s at least something. Maybe next time.

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