A few weeks ago I wrote about my affection for the 1960s sitcom, Gilligan’s Island. On a US Airways flight last Thursday from Reagan National to Little Rock I came to a realization about the show. It grew clear to me if Gilligan’s Island were real, Thurston and Lovey Howell would have lived about a month before their fellow castaways boiled them alive for being so insufferable and entitled.
I came to this conclusion after spending three hours trapped on a plane two rows ahead of this patrician 30-something with her perfect manicure and nightmare of a child. To say this loud little man was over-indulged sullies the good name of spoiled brats everywhere.
The woman began by asking for special things from the flight attendant. She had to have a beverage before beverage service began (we’re all in coach, not first class). The child wouldn’t sit. She cajoled him by matching volume of his voice and turning up the volume of the toddler’s iPad. From there it got louder and worse.
This went on for the entirety of the trip. Many of the other passengers shifted and turned to glare. I didn’t need to look. After all, there’s no point in trying to shame someone who lacks the capacity to experience it.
Once we got to Little Rock, the “mother” did as one might expect; she buffaloed her way down the terminal and crowded folks at the baggage return. Once she got their luggage, she went out to a large luxury SUV and drove it aggressively across the lot.
It’s pretty clear that she enjoyed a life of privilege. If not, she certainly wore the uniform of someone who does. More importantly, she obviously thinks that her lofty station relieves her of considering the desires of anyone else — apart from that god-awful mewling spawn of hers.
My own sweet mother would remind me that having to be that woman is punishment enough… that being that kind of person is really the worst thing that could happen to her. Mother is probably correct; even so, I wouldn’t mind seeing that woman hit square on the head with a little more obvious form of karmic justice.
To be sure, this isn’t an indictment of wealthy people. Although when wealthy people start that whole “don’t you know who I am” garbage, it makes me slightly more amenable to the forced redistribution of wealth.
No, I have seen plenty of poor folks equally convinced that the rules by which the middle class are yoked have no fetter on them. Both the rich and the poor who flout decency and rectitude would likely be horrified to know that their impertinent behaviors mirror very well. I have seen both country club doyenne and ghetto drug dealer act and speak with equal demand.
As we all know, being a jerk knows no race or class. It’s just that when the poor act like jerks, more often than not, the only victims are other poor people. When the well-to-do push people around, they have the means to hurt a much broader cross-section of society.
Of course, many of the propertied class are very active in philanthropic activities which emotionally — but not morally — relieve them of the burdens they impose on the world. As was Al Capone.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter how many museums or symphonies you support, homeless you feed, football teams you equip or police uniforms you buy if the other 99 percent of your professional time revolves around mistreating, exploiting and marginalizing your fellow humans.
Sadly, too few people in that world seem to recognize their real obligations to society — small or large. They spend their time in self-congratulatory celebrations of exclusivity and ego, leaving the rest of us to buy earplugs and build prisons.
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Matthew Pate is a former law enforcement executive who holds a doctorate in criminal justice from the University of Albany and who has advised police agencies around the country. He writes from Pine Bluff. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.