How capitalism destroys the kindness of strangers

How many of you have pulled up into a commercial car park and had a departing stranger offer you a valid ticket with some time remaining on it? I have had many such occasions, and each time it happens, I thank the stranger profusely, silently promise myself that I will pass the favour on whenever the opportunity arises and feel good about humanity for the rest of the day.

The car park attendants (or the owners) see these moments of kindness, and curse. What they see, is lost profit. Not profits that they are entitled to, but additional profits that could be grasped from generous, unselfish people.

The ticket has been paid for and a time allowed for a car to park in the area. If you misjudge your stay, the excess time is lost and the car park owners profit from your misjudgement or, you can donate the time to someone else who needs it. Note, how it never works the other way around, if you overstay by a few minutes, you are fined.

The passing on of a valid ticket made both giver and recipient feel good. So what does capitalism do? Now, the ticket machine requires you to type in part of your car registration so that the ticket cannot be handed over to another motorist. It deliberately prevents the kindness of strangers. Notice also how you, and not the owners, are required to do the extra work to prevent yourself from helping your fellow traveller. This is like the slavers asking you to fasten the chains onto yourself so that you can become their slave, or being told that you have to spill your blood onto your hard earned cash so that machines can check it is your DNA and that only you can spend it in officially approved commercial areas – no handing it out to beggars or people short of a bus fare.

Can we not see where capitalism is dragging us? If we can, why is no-one kicking and screaming? Why has nobody complained about this move? Are we so cowed that we are prepared to accept any new development, designed by big business, to rob us of our humanity?

4 Responses to “How capitalism destroys the kindness of strangers”

  1. Grace says:

    Great post – and so true! I tried to pass on a parking ticket to a stranger walking toward the machine the other week, only to discover that they were the parking attendant. Had to give a cheeky wink before I drove off.

  2. Ivor Tymchak says:

    Thanks Grace. He was probably on his way to remove tickets left on the machine by kind motorists. I’ve seen leaving motorists sometimes stick them on the machine when there is no-one immediately about to benefit from their ticket. How kind is that?

  3. Imran Ali says:

    There are always countervailing trends. For every digital rights management technology there’s are a hundred Creative Commons; for every cartel there’s a black market.

    Wherever basic humanity is engineered out of transactions, we figure out how to put them back in elsewhere. The internet is allowing us to aggregate our irritations into an opposition. Make that car park PAY!

    I’m optimistic :)

  4. Ivor Tymchak says:

    I wish I could share your optimism Imran but I see more litigation directed at file sharing participants, paywalls being erected everywhere on the internet and bigger cartels being created to strangle the black markets.

    My only hope is that one day, one company will own everything in the world, and when that happens everyone involved will have a moment of epiphany and see the futility of ownership.

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