Standing up for your rights

For the first time after living in this country for 28 years, I have never experienced rudeness to the point that you may consider it an `ism’, whether it’s Racism or Childism (people hating sounds of kids making noise in an area).

I was on the train on my way home after a meeting with my colleagues for our project in China. I was sitting quietly near the back of the couch of the train next to the space for people who had wheelchair or pram. An aboriginal father with his two little daughters (maybe aged around 5 and 3) sat next to me where the pram area was. As the train was cruising about 3 stations after it left Geelong the two kids were making the normal kids chatter with lots of laughter, questions to their dad, and funny comments about what they see outside as the train was travelling. It wasn’t that noisy that could be irritating. For me as a father of 2 boys, the noise was normal and not loud enough to be irritating considering that I was sitting next to them. I was just reading my book while this was all happening and I was making the occasional smile as I hear the two tykes making funny comments and laughing about it.

To my surprise, a middle aged guy, white, probably my age or older, stood up. I just thought he was just getting ready to alight the train when it reaches a station. The guy looking at the father started pointing to the wall of the train. My first impression was he was pointing to the outside, like I thought he was signalling to the aboriginal dad that they belonged outside. Then I had a look on the wall, there was a sign that said `quiet couch’. Then it became apparent to me that the man was annoyed with the noise the kids were making. He said to the dad that he should control his kids.  The dad answered back the man “who are you to tell me off?” He just told the man to go back to his seat. The man was then telling the dad “why don’t you move to the next couch”. The dad ignored his statement and told the man to just sit down. Then the dad said “don’t tell me where to go or what to do. You don’t own me much less you don’t own this country”. “It is my heritage, my aboriginal heritage that owns this country, so you don’t tell me what to do”.  The man got stunned by this statement and went back to his seat after the dad repeated to tell him to sit down.

I admired the dad for standing up for his right. The man was out of place and was pretty rude. He was either drunk or he had a bad hangover that any noise irritated him. The train wasn’t packed so if he was a decent man and could not stand the noise, he could have moved himself. If things could have gotten worst I would have stood up and told the man to get back to his seat or move to another couch. But he went back to his seat.

As things settled down, I looked at the dad and smiled at him and made a thumbs up sign to him. He smiled back, a smile that seemed to say I am happy I am in control. I went up to my seat and asked the dad permission if we could have a selfie. He willingly obliged. I didn’t to say anything else to him, but he knew and he felt he did the right thing for standing up to this guy.  Some other shy dad would have copped the abuse and would just have told his kids to keep quiet. But sometimes, for our kids sake and future, we have to show that we do not allow for such wrongdoings. If we just keep quiet, people trample on our rights and will think that they have all the right to be rude. In this situation it did not happen.

When the dad reached his stop, I stood up and shook his hands. No words were exchanged just the smile and warm hand shake that we know that this was the day when good trumps rudeness!

As for the rude guy, I saw him slouched on his seat with both his feet on the other seat. I was really disgusted with this guy because he dared point at the wall for the signs or rules on the train when he too was a culprit.  He did not read the signs, he only saw the sign that was to his favour. A reflection of the culture where rules or laws can apply to the weak and disadvantaged and not to those who think they are the privileged.

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