Disease or wisdom?

Ah, the joys of being herded into packed rail cars in the hot summer!

As many as 70 people were involved in a massive brawl at two Metro Stations in Washington D.C. on Friday night.

At least four were injured in the incident which began at Gallery Place station in Washington D.C.

Washington D.C. Fire and EMS reported that a "large brawl" took place at the L'Enfant Plaza station, involving "poss mass casualty." EMS claimed to treated at least 7 patients and 3 teenagers have been arrested and are in custody .

Poss mass? What is that? I haven't heard the expression before, but it hardly endears me to the idea of riding public transportation.

Yet all around the country, bureaucrat rulers, city planners, and left wing thinkers of all varieties sit around trying to come up with strategies to try to "nudge" people into these awful metal boxes teeming with humanity.

Maybe I am anti-social, but it is my personal opinion that being crammed into buses and rail cars is profoundly unnatural. It triggers my yuck reflex -- and if there is anything to the theory some have call "the wisdom of repugnance," then maybe my instincts are telling me something wise. After all, as Dr. Leon Kass famously observed,

repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason's power fully to articulate it.
But I'm not one of those windbags who tell other people what to do.

Why should my repugnance be controlling?

I mean, some people get turned on by getting crammed into things; back in the day, fraternity boys used to enjoy stuffing themselves into telephone booths.


So, if people are into that, it's not for me to judge them simply because of my repugnance, whether it is wise or not. If people want to cram themselves into crowded rail cars, that's their thing, and as a libertarian I would never tell them not to do it. As long as they don't ask me to pay for it, their behavior is not my legitimate concern.

Besides, I might be the one who is neurotic. There's even a phobia diagnosis for my repugnance, which is one of the oldest of them all.

Claustrophobia is typically thought to have two key symptoms: fear of restriction and fear of suffocation. A typical claustrophobic will fear restriction in at least one, if not several, of the following areas: small rooms, locked rooms, cars, tunnels, cellars, elevators, subway trains, caves, and crowded areas. Additionally, the fear of restriction can cause some claustrophobics to fear trivial matters such as sitting in a barber's chair or waiting in line at a grocery store simply out of a fear of confinement to a single space.
At the risk of sounding like a bigot, I think it may be wise for people who suffer from claustrophobia to avoid public transportation -- especially in light of the possibility that their claustrophobia may be a form of wisdom!

And to say that claustrophobes need treatment, wouldn't that be just as judgmental as it would be to say that people who like being crowded into metal boxes need treatment? Judgmentalism is bad, right?

The trouble with "to each his own" is that it sounds so dull, so unexciting. As boring as new age schmaltz. Value judgments about the relative wisdom of disease (or diseased wisdom) are much more exciting.

So I'd say that calling something a disease is as much a value judgment as calling it wisdom, except if I said that I'd be making a value judgment. However, if I make a positive value judgment about others, and a self-deprecating one about myself, few are likely to be offended, even though I am making the same point, right?

So I can say, "your disease is wisdom, and my wisdom is disease."

But not vice versa.

(God Heaven forbid that I might offend!)

posted by Eric on 08.08.10 at 11:00 AM


Aren't farm animals transported in enclosed containers via rail or highway??
And at least the farm animal containers are usually well ventilated..
There's not a more refreshing experience than being stuck behind a hog hauler in August!!

Sailingbum   ·  August 8, 2010 11:55 AM

Daniel Boone approves of this blog post.

Having been subjected to the "Bruta 100" of Mexico City, Mexico, I can attest to the visceral repugnance of "pasaje, masaje, robaje" one experiences in such conveyances.

Moreover, our moms were right: nothing good ever happens in crowded places.

Joan of Argghh!   ·  August 8, 2010 1:53 PM

I think you've got the story by the wrong end.

Pushing and shoving started at the Gallery Place Sta., according to the Wash Post, a place that attracts large numbers of youths.

Pushing and shoving continued on the subway, all the way to its next stop, L'Enfant Plaza, where it spilled out onto the platform.

The train was only a means of conveying the fight to its end.

John Burgess   ·  August 8, 2010 7:25 PM

To each his own. I myself would never again choose to live anywhere without a reasonably extensive and efficient mass transit system. Bless NYC, Chicago and Boston.

HMI   ·  August 8, 2010 9:41 PM

HMI, I agree. I have no objection to mass transit. (Or bicycles, for that matter.) I just don't like the activist idea of making taxpayers pay for it, much less trying to force choices on people,

Eric Scheie   ·  August 8, 2010 11:25 PM

"poss mass casualties" would seem to mean, "possible mass casualties".

Veeshir   ·  August 9, 2010 9:49 AM

Isn't it blindingly obvious? People don't like people. Putting a bunch of people in a cramped space with bad airflow and high temperatures is a recipe for disaster.

And yet the libs who think they know everything can't understand why suburbs and rural areas are attracting more people.

Space. I don't mind seeing you, but I wanna see some land between you and me.

brian   ·  August 9, 2010 10:12 AM

Veeshir, I think you're very poss right!

Eric Scheie   ·  August 9, 2010 12:22 PM

DC is full of narcissistic people who have no manners.

It makes interacting with people here a nightmare, whether they're driving or walking.

You mean absolutely nothing to them.

I always look around to see if someone is following me through a doorway so I can hold it open, that action is about as rare as can be. At least once or twice a day someone at my office lets the door close in my face.

They won't hold the elevator if they see you coming, but they will hold the door open to chat with someone while everybody on the car waits.

That's why I moved close enough to take the bus to work and walk home, that's the fewest number of people in this area I have to deal with.

Veeshir   ·  August 9, 2010 3:15 PM

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