Friday, June 22, 2007

Girls Kissing on a Bus

June 20th a 64 year old public bus driver got in trouble. He kicked two 14 year old girls off of his bus for making out. In doing so he called them "sickos." The mother was outraged and wanted to be assured that the driver was not getting away with a "slap on the wrist." The driver's action may have been inappropriate. I did not see how light or heavy their kissing was. What is inappropriate the assumption that his actions were necessarily wrong.

From an individualistic, rights-based perspective, anyone telling anyone what to do cannot be tolerated and must be reprimanded immediately. What is missing from this consideration are the sensibilities of the rest of the people on the bus. What if others did not want to see sexual acts? What if there were children on the bus (excluding the 14 year old girls) whose parents did not want them exposed to lewd sexuality of any orientation? What of the girls' respect for their elders and those around them? No. None of these issues was deemed worthy of taking into consideration in the eyes of the policy enforcement bureaucrats.

It is not irrational homophobia to want to stop children from having sex in public. Cultures are largely sucessful to the extent that they have intact families and value education. Cultures in which people are largely promiscuous and engage in premarital sex are fragile. Our elders have had more time to think about such things. There are deep religious and secular cultural reasons, grounded deep in our history, that inform the older sensibilities of the bus driver in question. He may not have thought of the importance of distinguishing liberty from license in supporting a first world republic. But he was not only expressing idiosyncratic quirks.

People who only make judgements based on the absolute value of individuaism miss out on a lot. The bureaucrats who punished him were likely only thinking of lawsuits. They know that the judicial system does not consider culturist values. They knew that their programming taught them that any restrictions on individuals will get you sued. But they may not have thought of what the judges do not consider. Certainly the mother who was not outraged at her children's public sexuality and disrespect for the elderly driver has imbibed individualism as an absolute. But being aware of our cultural history, what makes a culture thrive, and the wisdom in thinking about others' sensibilities makes us richer, better people.
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