Train rides and moral panic

This is a full transcript of this listening class for intermediate students of English.

There is a nationwide problem in Spain with people putting their feet on the train seat. Especially amongst young people. In fact, when a young person gets on the train in Spain its almost as if its obligatory… they don’t stop to think if they’re tired or their feet hurt… they just immediately swing their feet onto the seat. This may, or may not, be followed by the crime of aural invasion as they play reggaeton on their mobile phone. As a music lover this shouldn’t be so bad for me – but the sound quality is so bad on a mobile phone – it’s a crime.

But let’s get back to the subject. Putting your feet on the seat is wrong. You have God knows what on your feet, the person has to sit on it, and that’s not right. However, in a list of moral crimes, I’ll admit that putting your feet on the seat is not up there with Pol Pot’s killing fields, or Hitler’s final soloution… but it does exemplify a tendency in contemporary morality: that if everyone else is being a cu** you might as well be a c**t too… or more simply… if everyone else puts their feet on the seat… you might as well do it too.

You see, personally, I’ve been debating this seat issue for some time… the RENFE journey from Castelldefels to Barcelona has become a series of moral crisis. I often have this huge debate about whether or not I give a shit about the person who will sit on the seat afterwards (would they give a shit about me?). Then it kind of escalates to a larger problem; not putting my feet on the seat when I want to requires me to sacrifice something – the comfort of my feet on the seat – for the community and, quite frankly, I often think why the f*** should I… does the community care about me?

This was never a problem in the old days. It was simple… I was encouraged to do the right thing for the community irrespective of how the community treated me because I would be rewarded with heaven… a two-week vacation in paradise that had the advantage over the earthly version of lasting… forever. And if I did bad things… I went to hell – a place where you feel like you do every Monday morning –but… forever.

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Now, though, we have no such system of reward and punishment. If I piss on a train toilet seat… no one will know, and if I take the effort to do something good – to lift the disgusting toilet seat up because I’m thinking of others, nobody – not even God – will know about it… so what’s the point?

The point… is the question I’d like to address today. I would like to try and answer the important moral question of our times: why should I not be a cunt if everyone else is a cunt?

The first answer is logistical. It’s clear that thinking like a cunt soon escalates across schools, work places, communities and cultures. If every time you go to the train toilet there’s piss on it, even the principled man will get worn down in the end and start pissing on the seat. After all, everyone else does it! Or, in a microcosm, if everyone in the queue starts pushing in, you do, too. Or if you’re with a group of young people who don’t say thank you, you begin to feel like a gimp saying please and thank you so you stop saying it, or if your friend doesn’t give you a birthday card, you don’t send him a card, and so on and so on. We enter a dangerous cycle were being bad and selfish becomes infectious. It propagates itself.

And that is the first thing you should realize. Every time you bow under the pressure of other people’s bad acts or rudeness and you behave like them, you are responsible for another link in the chain; you are culturing the infection, increasing its grip on society. Look at the feet on seat example… someone else enters the train, sees you doing it, and then they do it too. And then it becomes a question of simple mathematics.

And that is the problem with today’s society – if we move from small things like feet on seats to larger acts of selfishness and ignorance I’m quite certain there are more and more selfish cunts in the world, which accelerates the process of infection, completely isolating the good man until he feels like a fool for being the only person who waits in the queue, or cleans the train toilet seat, or doesn’t put his feet on the seat.

For me, it is clear that a society consisting not of a minority of bad people, but a majority, would be appalling – both in the negative energy they exude and the way they infect the rest of us. Therefore, it is clear that those who want to keep society healthy must choose the path of good. And the only chance we have of maintaining the undecided between good and bad is if they see principled individuals who always do the right thing. This inspires them, keeps them stead fast, and on the right side of the fence. And that is the first reason you must not be a cunt even though it everyone else is a cunt… because if you fall, you are part of the irreversible process of society going bad to its very foundations. If the number of selfish people grows exponentially we are all fucked. Social cohesion will be lost and we will surely see the seeds of our own destruction.

It is a war of numbers my friend… Feet off seats please!

Vocabulary featured in this intermediate listening exercise

Nationwide: across the whole of the country.

Swing: verb: an action that is like a swing (columpio.) Noun: the metal construction you find in a playground which lets children fly back and forth with their feet off the ground.

Not up there with: a phrase you use to say that something is not at all like, or as good as, something else. For example, ‘Juventus are not up there with Real Madrid when it comes to winning the champions league.’

Might as well: there’s no other option, therefore you should do it. For example: ‘there are no more buses so we might as well start walking.’

Give a shit: if you say ‘I don’t give a shit’ you’re saying ‘I don’t care.’ No me importa.

Escalates: get’s bigger or increases in volume.

So what’s the point? what’s the sense in doing that?

The question I’d like to address: the question I’d like to examine.

Worn down: gastado. Slowly, little by little, breaking down any resistance.

Bow under the pressure: to surrender to the pressure and do what someone else wants you to do. Ceder.

Pushing in: jumping the queue.

Gimp: in sex, a gimp is the weaker partner who is dominated by the other. The classic image of the gimp is in Quentin Tarantino’s film, Pulp Fiction. The gimp wears ridiculous chains and other devices.

Its grip: it’s hold. ‘Fear has gripped the community’ means fear has (cogido) taken hold in the community.

Stead fast: consistent, strong willed, not distracted or tempted away from your objective.

On the right side of the fence; a fence is the wooden construction that divides two gardens. To be on the right side of the fence in an argument or dispute is a subjective term suggesting that the person is on the right team or side.

Seeds: semillas. What you put in the ground to grow new plants.

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