This is a poster that has been up on the Stockholm Underground for a while now, asking people to show civil courage on public transport. What kind of society do we live in that we stand by and do nothing when our fellow man needs help?
Sometimes when I am teaching new groups, it is difficult to break the ice. Students are often reserved, shy, lack confidence, do not know each other, or feel strange speaking English to someone with whom they usually speak Swedish.
So to get them going, I often ask them what annoys them most about public transport. And, as though a bottle has been uncorked, they usually pour out their frustrations. And those frustrations are not about the infrastructure or the transport itself. They are almost 100% about their fellow travellers – people who put their feet on seats, take up available seats with their bags, don’t take their backpacks off, make loud and/or long phone calls, listen to music or videos without headphones, don’t give up their seat for the infirm or disabled, don’t let people off the train before pushing their way on, litter, talk about private things at the top of their voices, eat messy food, sneeze or cough without covering their noses and mouths. The list is endless.
It is just so sad that so many of us inhabit public spaces as though we are the only ones there. Except when someone needs help or is unsafe, and then we are silent and still.