Sunday January 13, 2013
The badge of righteousness
CULTURE CUL DE SAC
By JACQUELINE PEREIRA
Being fit, healthy and concerned about the under-privileged is not a crime, but when the smug and the self-righteous flaunt these sterling traits as badges, they become more than a little annoying.
I was out earlier than expected one Sunday morning. And I certainly did not expect to be held up at a T-junction for more than half an hour waiting for eager-beaver Sunday-run participants in neon pink T-shirts taking their own sweet time, strolling on the road enjoying the fresh morning air.
What was even worse was that the police personnel manning the junction appeared more afraid of stopping the runners to let the cars pass rather than the other way around.
It was similar to the news after Hurricane Sandy had viciously swept through the streets, homes and workplaces of New York.
Despite the devastation wrought and suffering brought by the hurricane, several thwarted New York Marathon entrants were up in arms (and legs) about Mayor Bloomberg cancelling the annual event. Never mind the cityís inhabitants still struggling to cope with the destruction.
There seems to be an unwritten rule with groups of like-minded people. Runners, cyclists, social activists Ė they seem to feel that their activities take precedence over the choices of others.
But itís when they take on a morally superior stance that I take issue.
Like that Sunday morning. It was only after much hooting and some shouting that cars were eventually allowed through. Even then, some of the runners hogging a major thoroughfare were glaring at us drivers!
Later, when I tried to turn into the road to my house, the runís stragglers, none sporting a Jennifer Ennis set of abs or an Usain Bolt burst of speed, seemed shocked that I did not feel compelled to park my car on the main road, get out of their way and cheer them on. Itís not even as if they were considerately running in single file; not only were they hogging the road, they were chatting, drinking and joking Ė everything but running.
I had my priorities, too, err... my nasi lemak bungkus was getting cold. You know, itís great that you guys are all running, fit and healthy, but do get out of the way. Honk! Honk!
Similarly irritating were a pair of vegetarians I had the misfortune to meet. I was helping a friend in Britain host a dinner and, in the days leading up to the event, the life-long vegetarian couple would call up every so often. It was to remind my friend that they did not eat any kind of meat, dairy or onions Ė even bulbs that grow under the ground were a big no-no.
Short of revoking their invitation, I ventured they should bring their own meal to save us the bother. Needless to say, once at the dinner both were decidedly unsociable, sitting only with each other and meticulously picking each dish apart, looking for deviant ingredients.
Vegetarianism is a choice, I get that. And, as long as those who choose it manage their own issues, it is fine. But when the holier-than-thou not only expect praise for their rectitude, but also take great pride in trying to convert meat-eaters, that is when I smell a rat, so to speak.
Then there are the volunteers congratulating themselves on adopting a charity close to their hearts. Just when you hurry past their booth in a mall, they emerge with a brochure to stop you in your tracks. A courteous ďNot right now, if you donít mind,Ē will only earn you quiet disdain, not points for politeness.
Itís not that you harbour thoughts of miserliness: itís just that, like me, you would like to choose your own ways of being charitable. And it does not have to be through an organised society or group.
Just last Sunday, this newspaper reported on certain charitable homes refusing to accept gifts in kind, instead preferring cash to pay for the running of their operations. This is fine, as long as that is what they intend to do. Just donít ask me to contribute Ė Iíll be charitable in my own way.
After all, there are so many other ways to do your bit for society. Just because I donít choose the same way as you, does not mean that Iím a penny-pincher.
We can all be right in our choices. But we canít all be righteous, since that will lead to chaos and intolerance. Which we can all do without. All right?