It can be difficult to step in when it comes to witnessing someone commit a transgression, which goes against societal norms and values. A transgression is an act, often small or basic in nature, that goes against a rule, law, code of conduct and causes offense to others in the society. While you may witness these transgressions as a bystander, you have it within your rights to call it out when you see it within reason. While I am not an advocate for self-policing and calling out random strangers for bad behavior, I do believe that it should be allowed especially in matters of public health and/or safety.
I would also extend to calling out those transgressions where someone is trying to take advantage of you or doing something illegal or unjust when they know it’s wrong but refuse to do anything about it. To give you some basic examples, if you are living in a city or a town and see somebody littering or throwing trash on the ground in front of you, I believe it’s worth calling them out for doing it because your tax dollars are going towards maintaining the cleanliness of your community and for hiring those local employees who help keep the streets clean.
The person causing the offense must be held accountable or at least giving a stern reprimand because while they may think they get away with it, everybody including yourself witnessing it is paying for it in extra tax money or effort to pick that trash up later. When you call out a transgression, be stern, make your point, and move on. It does not do any good to escalate directly with that person since you’re not enforcing the law yourself as your duty but rather express your concern as an ordinary citizen.
Other transgressions that come to mind include not picking up after your pet when they do their daily business, which you should call the person out for if you witness it and to report it after privately if you know where the transgression occurred. Also, another increasingly common one in certain cities is to see a group or a few individuals shoplifting and if you see this serious transgression, let a store person know to apprehend them or even call the police who can catch the individuals if the store or place has cameras.
You must keep your eye out for these kinds of transgressions because if there are no consequences for acts like littering, trespassing, not picking up after your pet, shoplifting, etc. which can result in heavy fines and even mandatory community service, those offenders will feel more emboldened to continue doing so and even commit even more violations of the laws and rules that our society is built on. If some people are abusing these basic morals and values with their transgressions, no matter how small they are, they must be held accountable for them in some form or another.
Think of our society as pillars holding the foundation together that binds us all under the same rules, laws, regulations no matter who we are. When one of those pillars starts to falter, in this case, being when little transgressions go without reprimand or punishment, it can start to crumble the entire foundation and weaken the other pillars as well. When these violators cause infractions and don’t get a stern slap on the wrist or a scolding at least, then they will be emboldened to do it again or even commit worse offenses, which we should be mindful of as a society.
The COVID-19 pandemic made me think about these small transgressions especially when you’re abiding by a mandate on public transportation, for example, and others refuse to abide by the mandate, and for which is not being enforced. When you follow the temporary mandate especially in a bus or on a train and others don’t, it does create a sense of entitlement to for those people who think they are above the rules and that the mandate should not apply to them even when it is a ‘mandate.’ I often ignored those people who would not abide by the mandate but there was one instance where I had to say something when the only people not wearing a face mask on the bus were sitting next to me and it was an entire family. They were oblivious to the fact that everyone else on the bus had a mask on at the time and even the driver had one on. This was before the vaccines were being distributed.
I would rather the bus driver had enforced the mandate himself but if you’re sitting next to me without a mask and I’m abiding by it, I don’t want my health to be put at risk by your lack of acquiescence. It was the only time I spoke out about it to a group of people as it puts you in an awkward spot but when it comes to public health, mask mandates on a bus, train, or a plane at the time should be the same for everybody especially when 90-95% care enough to abide by the temporary measure.
Unfortunately, those who impose the mandates are not able or willing to enforce them, which is doubly annoying for those people who abided by them each time and yet had to see other people flaunt the rules like it was no big deal without being held accountable for it. This kind of transgression is particularly disturbing when you realize that it could have public health consequences and those who set up such a mandate to begin with lacked the follow through or the care to enforce such a mandate making it rather useless and abusable.
Another transgression I’ve noticed is some people jumping the fare gate at the metro system or going in right behind someone who has paid their fare ahead of them and not paying it because they sneak in before the gate closes. That situation happened to me as I paid my fare to enter the metro station and go down to the train like any usual trip and there was a young guy behind me who bumped up right behind me and invaded my personal space. I noticed he came in right behind as I paid the fare and the gate opened for me. I also noted how he didn’t pay the fare since he wanted to use mine without paying his own way. I was mad about this to the point that I sternly reprimanded him and told him that he was abusing the system by not paying his fare like the rest of us.
He made a lame excuse in saying that he was in a rush and had to catch the next train. I kept my cool but informed him sternly that was not an excuse to not pay his fare and that some of us pay taxes and the fares each time to keep the system running well. The offender didn’t get it, of course, and weaseled his way onto the next train and I kept my distance from him. Sadly, he is a violator of the metro system like others who feel like they can jump the gate or not pay by bumping up against someone like me who pays each time.
These hooligans who do it unfortunately don’t get fined or reprimanded by the metro system officials very often, if at all, which is quite unfortunate and even detrimental to the larger society. When fare-beaters and anti-maskers get away with breaking the rules without consequences, it makes the rest of us sad that we are carrying all the weight for them, and they are mooching off the system based on mutual trust, benefit, and adherence.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, the rules and laws are meant for everyone and when the smaller ones are abused or not followed, these transgressions can lead to bigger issues in the general society. It leads to a lack of trust, a breakdown in norms, and an inability to keep track of how many people are abusing the basic laws and standards that keep the society running well. It erodes the pillars over time that keep the foundation of our shared society afloat. I’m not arguing for self-policing since that tends to not solve anything, but we need stricter enforcement for everyone to avoid these little transgressions, so they don’t lead to bigger problems that form later for all of us when the accountability and transparency is gone.