[Seeing the sign embedded below at WRSA sent my thoughts hurtling back twenty years to the following piece, which first appeared at Eternity Road of fond memory. Be aware that the embedded links no longer work; not my fault. — FWP]
Heather at Lil Cup Of Love has a half-hilarious, half-ominous post up today about recent encounters between a hairstylist friend and a couple of seriously defective customers. Give it a read and hurry back.
Finished so soon? My, my. One cannot but feel immense sympathy for that hairstylist, and a great desire to remain several thousand miles away from the customers of whom she complained. What you should note about these…persons is that both are beyond all dispute the sort of creature that seeks out helpless victims to loonify (Copyright © 2004 by Your Curmudgeon). Therefore, they go to “public accommodations” which offer one-on-one services of the sort that compel the tradesman to endure anything the customer might happen to dispense short of actual violence. The vendors of services who must perforce touch the client, or who are required by their trade to listen to the client, are particularly vulnerable. Barbers and hairdressers are among the worst afflicted.
The problem is rooted in the disappearance of a little sign that once hung on the wall of every store, barbershop, tavern, and bordello in America:
You can still find that little sign in some shops, but legal changes have emptied it of its significance. For all practical purposes, no one who sells any good or service to the “general public” — that is, with no requirement for prior introduction, specification, and negotiation — can refuse to serve anyone, without risking both civil and criminal consequences.
So the loonies have their way with folks such as Heather’s hairstylist friend.
America’s loony population is not evenly distributed over the fifty states. They tend to concentrate in cities, with the greatest densities observable in the coastal megalopolises such as Los Angeles and New York. There’s a lot of information buried in there, actually. Since loonhood normally includes a ravenous appetite for the attention of others, the loony will automatically go to where that can be had. Large cities offer the most potential victims, and large American coastal cities, which are utterly under the spell of leftist moral relativism, unearned guilt, and legally mandated “compassion” for the unfortunate, will naturally be the worst off.
Granted that there are degrees of loonhood. Heather’s friend didn’t suffer any physical damage from her encounters; she was merely offended and somewhat shaken by them. But a fearless researcher with a good pair of walking shoes could easily turn up a dozen far more radical cases, some physically threatening, in a single afternoon’s stroll on the streets of New York.
It’s not against any law to be an irritating, irrational whiner. It’s not against any law to complain baselessly about one’s treatment by some hardworking, longsuffering tradesman. It’s not against any law to shout imprecations or outright threats at the objects of one’s disaffection, with the exception of government officials in the performance of their duties. But damn it all, there used to be curbs on this sort of thing — unofficial but quite stringent curbs that kept it out of the faces of the decent and honest, so that we could count on civility and courtesy even from complete strangers.
The more severely diseased of the loonies were confined for their own protection. Those with milder strains of the virus were told to “keep moving.” And that is exactly as it should be.
Those who’ve read extensively of your Curmudgeon’s blather will find this opinion unsurprising. Indeed, it seems to be widely shared. So why can’t we act on it?
The answer is uncomfortable to ponder. We’re afraid.
We’re quite reasonably afraid of the gendarmerie. Many of these are dumb as rocks. Many others take an unholy delight in any opportunity, however unrighteous, to exercise their “authority” over the rest of us. Not much to be done there, except to lobby strenuously for changes in the laws that govern retail commerce.
We’re also afraid of the loonies themselves. Some of them genuinely are dangerous, and will do what they can to punish anyone who refuses to submit to loonification. Others exert a rather subtler sort of intimidation, the variety enforced by great embarrassment.
But in large measure, what we’re afraid of is our own consciences.
We’ve been hypersensitized to the “plight of the less fortunate.” We’ve been harangued to death about how, in some indefinable and ultimately elusive way, their condition is our fault and our rightful burden. And those “less fortunate” have been overdefined to include persons who take a perverse pleasure in annoying others.
Compassion freaks will immediately rise to condemn this. Their usual argument is that the defects of these unfortunates are not their fault. Even if that were true, that the responsibility for dealing with them should fall on the shoulders of the sane and civil does not follow.
A society is not an infinitely elastic or tolerant construct. Enough abuse of its unwritten rules will cause it to fragment in ways that no man can predict. Those rules deal with what is legally permitted but is nonetheless unacceptable: the gray zone of human conduct that demands action by the civilized to quell the barbarians, but which cannot, for diverse reasons, make use of the weight of the law. This is inadequately understood and even less adequately articulated.
Heather’s friend probably understands it.
Is there a freedom commando out there who’s willing to make this his personal mission?