Thursday, May 14, 2009



Up in Boston a significant blip is developing. A quite young trolley operator last weekend caused a major collision and derailment, with a hundred or more passengers injured, because he was texting his girlfriend and went through a red stop-warning light and rammed the rear of another trolley.

At the moment, the trolley union is claiming there should be more automatic control over the trolleys, the Transportation Authority is planning to ban even the possession of cell-phones and similar personal communication devices by operators actually on-duty and driving public transit vehicles. Meanwhile, there is a hue-and-cry from the gay-lesbian-transgendered advocates since it came out that the trolley driver recently changed sex from female to male.

So many thoughts, and of a much wider significance than a local municipal dust-up.

First, the whole idea of having actual human trolley operators is the same principle that requires human pilots of commercial aircraft: nothing really beats the educated human brain when it comes to making significant and complex decisions quickly. Nobody is really comfortable trusting ‘a machine’, no matter how ‘cutting edge’ to do that task (similarly, for all the wrack and imbecility on the nation’s highways and byways, nobody really wants ‘robot-driven’ automobiles zooming around).

So you want experienced humans, professionally mature enough to know what’s going on around them, know how to handle their large and human-freighted machines, and remain focused in a serious and deliberate fashion while they’re at the controls.

“Youth’ is not really known for that, as befits – at the very least – the irrefutable neurobiology of brain development, which isn’t physically complete until the early-mid 20s. Additionally, children raised in a distracting and stimulus-overloaded world, where ‘maturity is considered ‘elitist’ and ‘ageist’ and ‘serious commitment and responsibility’ is considered ‘patriarchal’ and’ masculinist’ … children raised like that, perhaps in domestic settings where there not enough mature adults to help such development, are most probably going to be seriously deficient in this vital area.

You can see already where all sorts of major ‘reforms’ imposed upon society and culture in the past few decades are having rather forseeable and baaaaad consequences.

Nor, as one gender-feminist remarked almost two decades ago (as Christina Hoff Sommers quoted her in the book ‘Who Stole Feminism’), “that’s the state’s problem”. Welllll – No, it’s Our problem, and a dadblasted avoidable one too, if anyone in the Beltway or the media had been paying attention to their own responsibilities.

Second, the assorted gender-change and orientation Advocacies have a point, and I agree: it makes no difference whatsoever, really, whether a mature and competent operator is straight or gay, former male or former female.

BUT that’s only a small part of the problem. Look at the wider context of legal constraints on the hiring of certain politically-favored ‘minorities’: a large organization, especially a public service one, is going to figure that it’s a hell of a lot easier to hire an acceptable number (Ted Kennedy has always said that there should never be ‘quotas’ – yah) and hope for the best, rather than run the risk of endless litigation, bad publicity, and – the horror! – certain bureaucrats losing their jobs or careers.

In a context like this – alas – there has to be the possibility, perhaps probability, that such ‘hires’ might not really be up to the job. This has always been a very real danger lurking in ‘affirmative action’ hiring, especially as it was vastly expanded in the 1990s through the multiplication of ‘favored’ classes or ‘protected’ classes or what-have-you. It can hardly be dismissed as ‘backlash’ or ‘oppression’, as has been the simple knee-jerk ‘response’ from the assorted Advocacies.

A public transit operator, after all, has something of the same responsibility as a ship’s captain or a commercial-passenger pilot: s/he has to be ready to exercise significant responsibilities of command if something baaad should happen. (Of course, s/he has to be professionally mature enough to do the professional operating in such a way as to minimize the possibility of such baaad things to begin with.)

And while you don’t expect a public transit operator to exude the same aura as an aircraft carrier’s commanding officer, yet the fact remains that human lives depend on the operator’s performance and discharge of responsibilities.

This ‘elitism’ conflicts not only with Politically Correct and ‘liberal’ thinking, but also with the union idea that a ‘job’ is a ‘job’, and that once you’ve got it, you’re ‘all set’. So too, there are plenty of more conventional operators – older, with lots of time on the job – who aren’t really much more impressive than the operator in question here. (With all respect to the hard-working and capable operators and their union-membership.)

So where I’m going with this is that the ‘union mentality’ is just as rife with the possibility of insufficiently serious operators as the ‘affirmative action’ mentality.

Be that as it all may, ‘seriousness’ and ‘responsibility’ are – and always have been – required, at all levels of public activity and professional activity, from public transit operators to banking and industry CEOs to elected officials, up to and including the Beltway bunch.

And this is one big turkey come home to roost now. (I hope that doesn’t sound anti-birdist, or as if I am a backlasher against bird-dom.)

The source of the problem is not in inadequate technology, nor in venal unions, nor in a concern to open up the opportunity to hold and perform a responsible job to a wider segment of the population.

The real source is in the entire ‘elite’ attitude toward responsibility and maturity and seriousness, which has now bethumped Us for so long that generations of younger folk (the oldest being well over 30 now) simply haven’t been prepared for the characterological tasks of mature adulthood and responsibility.

Attention, famously, must be paid.

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