Our Theory in Practice

I know I spend a lot of time talking about our incessant desire to hurt others while acting self righteous, and you’re probably sick of it. You may also be sick of people trying to hurt others while acting self righteous, but that’s not stopping us!


I believe this to be a false statement with unparsable grammar. From Harambe’s memorial.

Cincinnati’s tragic gorilla death is such a textbook example that it’s almost like people are taking this admonitory theory as a guide to their lives. A gorilla imperils a child and is shot down, and we all get a golden ticket to demand that the child’s mother be arrested or killed.

Harambe’s death is obviously a tragedy, and no one’s complaining about those who mourn the gorilla. In lieu of flowers, donations could be made to a save-the-gorillas charity, and that’s probably a good use of everyone’s time. Presumably some people chose that route. Many, many others chose  to threaten a stranger based on very little evidence of wrongdoing. images

Anyone who has never had a three-year old wander ten feet away has simply never tended a three-year old. The idea that a wandering child might cause the death of a gorilla is so unusual that we naturally feel safe calling for a new law to punish those unfortunate enough to be a party to it. (The petition is here, but please don’t sign it.)

(As I’ve pointed out before elsewhere, the entire idea that children should be monitored at all times until their majority is largely a desire to control other people’s lives that disproportionately hurts 13244789_1215332258497525_7655105536770222671_npeople who can’t afford nannies. Remember that hurting the poor is a double win! (Although calling the set of people who can’t afford nannies “the poor” is using terms pretty loosely.) Nevertheless, please no not let your three-year old wander unattended at the zoo, for several reasons.)

My demographic, which is to say the demographic of my online friends, has not been very active in vowing revenge against a mother whose child was just traumatized after she looked Untitled.pngaway for three seconds. We’re better than that! Instead, we’ve been busy vowing revenge against a racist Dunkin’ Donuts clerk.

The clerk, assuming the viral story is true, is much more culpable than the unfortunate zoo parent.It would make sense to be outraged, and not merely sad, at the incident. I’ve seen more than one person vow to go to the named Dunkin’ Donuts to give the clerk a piece of her mind, and even those who are not planning an expedition are calling for the guy to be fired.

Don’t get me wrong: all of this is much better than calling for the murder or strangers, better even than trying to get a law passed for an event that happens once a century.  It may even be the morally right thing to do.

Except I assume most of us have worked in a service sector job at some point in our lives, and I assume one thing we’ve learned is that no customer can be trusted. Shih’s description of the encounter may be 100% true, and it may be an unfair fabrication and is probably, like most statements, somewhere in between. I 1211459have to believe most of us know all that, on some level. I have to believe that everyone has heard a story spun in a way that turns out to be completely misleading.

I’m not saying that happened here. I’m saying that it is ludicrous for any of us to demand the firing of, let alone personally berate, a person based on one woman’s paragraph-long account. Shih did the right thing in bringing her grievances to Dunkin’ Donuts’ attention; Dunkin’ Donuts would be doing the right thing if they investigated the incident. If Shih’s gladiator-thumbsdownaccount is fair, it’s hard to imagine anyone objecting to the clerk’s termination. But at the moment, it’s not even a he said, she said — there is no he said. And we’re busy demanding that DD skip the investigation and just fire some guy to satisfy our blood lust.

We’re not bad people, of course. We don’t want to hurt people for no reason. We only want to hurt strangers whose children are unlucky, or who are rumored to have behaved badly once. That’s what good people do!



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