When people become selfish animals

Since the place where I work is very close to a LRT station, and the place where I stay is about 15 minutes walk from another LRT station, I sometimes  take the light transit to work, especially when I send my car fro servicing or when there is something wrong with my car.

Not that I enjoy taking the LRT. Those of you who have taken it ( the putra line from PJ to KL) during peak hour ( morning and evening rush hours) will know what I mean. The coach would be packed like a sardine can, hardly any space to breathe , let alone to move..

I have seen old ladies and old men who can hardly stand straight trying to balance standing while young men and young ladies sitting on the few available seats try to look away and avoid eye contact. I have seen pregnant ladies swaying with the movements of the train and yet no one is chivalrous enough to stand up and offer a seat. ( I would have done so but those times that I have seen these happenings, I was standing and could not get a seat myself).

I remember during our times in the 60s, whenever the buses were packed to the hilt, there would invariably someone who would stand up and offer seats to those in need of seats..

What has happened to humanity? I use the word ‘humanity’ rather than ‘ Malaysians” because apparently this sort of behaviour is happening everywhere.

Recently, there was a debate in London as to how  ‘Londoners are now so crammed on the Underground they’ve started behaving like “selfish animals”‘ following a London Assembly report (read here) ad a well written article  published in the London Evening Standard .

That article is beautifully written and since what was stated in the article  is similar to what happens here ( and I guess a lot of other cities as well), I will post the whole article here.

If this thing can happen in London where the underground service (nicknamed ‘Mind the Gap’)is so efficient and among te best in the world , you bet it will and it does happen all over the world.

Perhaps we can start our own debate here too on why people become selfish animals once they are in a situation where they have to rush for time.

Make my day – offer a pregnant lady your Tube seat

I have a confession to make. While I’m standing on the Tube platform I perform a rather disingenous ritual.

First, I loosen my coat and smooth my clothes to the contours of my body. Then I gently rub my belly.

The idea, which goes against several decades of modest Scottish conditioning, is to draw attention to my figure.

The problem is, it rarely works. Despite doing my best to advertise the fact that I am almost eight months pregnant, when the train doors slide open, I’m still barged charmlessly out of the way in the scrum to grab the few free rush-hour seats.

Once inside, it doesn’t seem to matter where I stand; 90 per cent of the time I am not offered a seat.

Not even one of the several in each carriage marked with a blue sticker showing a woman with a bump (which are invariably occupied by younger, fitter Londoners than me).

Friends lucky enough to avoid crush hour don’t understand. “Why don’t you just ask for a seat?” they say, innocent of how great a breach of Tube etiquette that would be.

Earlier in my pregnancy I reckoned I’d start requesting seats at around seven months. Now I realise I’d have to be in second-stage labour before most Victoria line passengers would show a flicker of acknowledgement.

So I couldn’t have been less surprised by yesterday’s London Assembly report revealing that Londoners are now so crammed on the Underground they’ve started behaving like “selfish animals”.

I could have written the report myself, having studied the behaviour of Tube-bound commuters up close these past few weeks.

I’ve seen how effectively they shut down and how expertly eye contact is avoided. The result is I’m no longer surprised – or even offended – when seats don’t come my way.

There are exceptions: usually gallant young men who’ve been properly brought up, or mums who can remember what it’s like to sway unsteadily with a heavy bag and heavier belly.

They spring up with such well-meaning insistence that it can bring tears of gratitude to a pregnant woman’s eye.

There are also those who make a calculated stand not to give up their seat. You see them staring, then a copy of the Evening Standard is placed pointedly between them and you. Out of sight, out of mind.

But I’m sure the bulk of commuters just don’t notice at all. For those of us with no choice, a journey on the Tube is a twice-daily torture made bearable by sticking to a set of coping mechanisms.

We lose ourselves in books, turn up our iPods or simply shut our eyes. And we go for seats like heat-seeking missiles because sitting down is the one thing guaranteed to make the train arrive sooner. Or so it seems.

Acting like a bunch of glass-eyed zombies might feel like the logical reaction to the Underground experience. But deep down we know it only makes things worse.

So go on, do something human today and give a pregnant lady a seat. You’ll feel so much better for it. And so will I.


5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. CYC
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 15:21:09

    Its a manifestation of fallacy of Moral Studies in our education system? Scrap it as well, waste of time.

    Man become more selfish when material wealth prosper and technology advances. This unavoidable but we could try to balance it by looking inwards to gain an insight of ourselves.

    Cleansing of inner pollution is the staring point of combating external pollution and global warming.


  2. Fi-sha
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 15:53:13

    Dear Dr Hsu,

    Welcome back.

    Thanks for sharing the enlightening article.

    As an ardent user of our public transport (yes, despite the inconvenience reality as potrayed in your post), I must say that these selfish animals feel that they are fighting for their rights.

    Even, I would go further by saying that they are not lower than animals since the latter has more compassion to others in need.

    Sadly, most LRT commuters are better educated than those who rely on buses. This shows the kind of educated morons we have produced in this Ibu Pertiwi – what an oxymoron!

    I always make a point to give up what i have hoping that one day, if my parents or my pregnant sisters are to use our public transport in the future, there will be ‘angels’ that would be kind enough to be compassionate to them.

    After all, we are all humans. If only we could see others as our brothers and sisters, this world would be a better place.

    Wishing you a great week sir.


  3. klm
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 16:10:35

    All these religious classes and moral studies in our schools have fried the brain of Malaysians. That is why they have no sense of respect for the elders and compassion for the sufferings.

    Do away with these classes.


  4. disgusted
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 17:19:28

    Blame the teachers and of course, the parents who have little time to teach their children on courtesy and morals.

    Cilipadi, your say?


  5. clearwater
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 11:19:12

    It results from high competition (rush hour human traffic ) for a scarce commodity ( a seat ) and exists in every place where resources are stretched to the limit. Selfishness in animals is a survival instinct except that humans are supposed to have evolved beyond it. Supposed to have developed rules of decorum and civilized behavior living in a community of humans. Well, not really. Look at some of our elected representatives in the Perak state assembly or Federal Parliament.

    Welcome back, Dr Hsu.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: