It was a warm, sunny beautiful day at Casa de SJ, so the time was right to do the ceremonial spring washing, cleaning and SU dash pot polishing on the Healey. As I worked my way through the car, my daughter came out to say that she wanted to wash her new Mini Cooper. It was bought just before the winter and this would be its first wash.
“Let’s do it,” I proudly exclaimed, and upon completion of the Healey, she pulled the Mini into the place of honor. But then, as she began to assess the winter’s ravages, she saw something else. There, on the hood, were the unmistakable marks of someone putting a package down and pulling it off, leaving a scrape in its wake.
It was easy enough to fix with a bit of compound, but she was astounded and outraged. “What sort of animal would do such a thing,” she cried in anguish. I felt her pain. It had to be some woman at the supermarket. They don’t care about anything but themselves.
Coincidentally, Chris Seaton raised a similar travesty.
Of all the barbaric acts I’ve witnessed during the pandemic this might be the worst. pic.twitter.com/18qPS2Sy5k
— Master Heater (@clsesq) May 16, 2020
To be fair, it’s just not as bad as driving the speed limit in the left lane or the person who, done with the shopping cart, gives it a blind push in a direction away from them, but to each his own.
But these all raised the issue presented by the Shopping Cart Theory.
Okay, I admit that this takeoff of the Trolley Problem is pretty funny, but here’s the full blown idea.
Some years ago, I argued that charity is about giving without receiving anything in return. It’s done anonymously, not for appreciation, recognition or self-aggrandizement. This doesn’t make you a bad person if you want your name on the library, but it does make you less than selfless.
Some years ago, I argued that integrity is what you do when no one is looking. If you could commit a crime and be guaranteed to get away with it, would you? Or would you not steal something for no better reason than it’s wrong?
The phrase “virtue-signalling” has been derided as an attack on the virtuous. After all, the expression of virtue is believed to spread it to others, or more realistically, shame others into sharing the virtuous belief. But signalling gets reactions, whether merely to “like” you or recognize you as one of the tribe of “good” people. Does anyone give you the feedback and validation of a “like” for returning your shopping cart? Without it, is the effort worthwhile?
After I finished compounding my daughter’s mini, washed it up and repolished the spot, we talked about why other people would be so thoughtless with other people’s things. After all, it was just a car and the person who put their shopping bag on her hood likely needed some place to put it so that she could open her own car. Maybe she wouldn’t care if someone did the same to her; she would understand. Maybe she would be outraged because it damaged her car and she was just another narcissist who cared only about herself. Who knew?
She was philosophical about the damage, realizing that she could only control her behavior and choices, and that life would be filled with selfish assholes who would mindlessly damage other people’s hoods because it was good for them at the moment. There was never a time when some people weren’t like this. There will always be people who care less for others than themselves. There will always be people who think only of what’s good for them, even if it means that others will be harmed in the process.
But has there ever been a time when so many people expend so much effort making excuses for their actions while hiding behind the faux virtue of saying the right words to get their tribe’s approval, while simultaneously being so lazy and narcissistic that they can’t manage to walk the 50 feet to return their shopping cart, or to put groceries in their car without putting them down on someone else’s hood, when they can get away with it? The virtue signalers will insist that they are not the douches who would do such a thing, and that it’s no different today than it ever was. And if you disagree, they will call you bad names for being so utterly lacking in empathy.