I took the train from New London, Connecticut to Providence a couple months ago. My train seatmate was an Economics professor and we engaged in an animated discussion about poverty and social programs. He was great company until the most cliché 80’s thing happened: he put his hand on my leg. Do people really still do that? Stunned I could only mutter a goodbye and leave the seat.
Melanie’s instructions were to write my thoughts on life, and this incident provides an excellent example with how most people (including myself) tend view life. Sometimes things happen we don’t like but it’s better just to keep quiet about it because, really, what can we do?
Life is a “long, strange trip” if I may quote Jerry Garcia and unexpected pleasures and pains present themselves. In my case it was some creepy guy (who on second thought probably wasn’t even an Economic professor) touching my leg. And I said nothing. Sure, I got up and removed myself from the situation but without a dignified reprimand to assert the wrongness of what he did. I kept my mouth shut for decorum.
How many times in your life have you done/not done something that clashed with your principles for the sake of some sort of social peace? Don’t rock the boat! We do it all the time. Or perhaps you haven’t said anything because what difference was it going to make? Jean Paul Sartre the prolific writer and proponent of existentialism called this bad faith. It’s when we choose ourselves as “inert presence’” or passive objects in the ceremony of life. We melt into social roles or ignore our surroundings. Why? Facing up to our convictions and putting our views out there—well, that’s a hard thing to do.
Acting in good faith isn’t necessarily being aggressive or fighting, but it is asserting your opinions and living in concordance to your principles. Easy, no, but the alternative is to live a life of a watered down you—one that is too fearful to break out of the mold, your beliefs tucked under good behavior. Good faith gives us agency, movement to act and, define one’s reality. It is an invigorating idea and when applied to creepy train rides changes the scenario from victimization to freedom from sexist behavior. Acting in good faith I might have said exactly what I thought of him violating my space….or maybe I would have kicked him in the shins!
I encourage everyone reading this blog to think about matching your principles with your words and actions. I promise it is not easy, but I can also assure you that there is no other way to live.
~ Sarah Champ-Valencia