Thirty-six weeks, a few more to go (I hope) and I’m looking forward to shedding some weight. I feel so out of breadth when I walk up 5 steps at home! It’s been an interesting experience being pregnant with its highs and lows. Traveling on public transport has been particularly interesting as you notice how other people feel a sense of care towards you. It’s quite strange being offered a seat or being smiled at to make sure you are ok. Some women, I observed, were quite willing to grab the opportunity to take a seat whenever offered, some declined if they felt they could genuinely cope without one, and some to my surprise were extremely offended if they were not offered a seat. I strongly belonged to the second category: if I felt I could genuinely stand for 15-20 minutes, I would continue to do so. Also, I really didn’t have the expectation that people would notice my bump and offer me a seat straight away. If I desperately needed one, I would ask. I did think to myself that if I really wanted a seat every day, I would (set off early avoid the rush hour and find a seat in a relatively quieter environment.
The point being that I was more than happy to take my own responsibility. Of course it’s nice to being offered a seat but I wouldn’t be offended if I wasn’t offered one. And what’s wrong with that? It’s not the other people in the train who had any say in me being pregnant. It was me and husband’s decision, so I really can’t justify any expectation from the rest of the society to look after me.
This was however not the case with this other pregnant woman on the train when my Husband and I boarded one morning. I was a few months pregnant but didn’t have an obvious bump. Her bump was faintly visible through her black top. We didn’t notice her or her bump immediately and made our way inside the carriage. After a few stops, I had to get off the train, and a few seats became available, so my husband sat down. As I was getting off, I heard the woman speak sarcastically to someone random on the train, about “those two” not offering her a seat. It took me a while to understand why she was saying all this. After a few seconds as she became louder and clearer, I realised she was directing those sarcastic (somewhat rude) comments against us. This incident had an impact on me, not because I felt bad for not offering her a seat, but because of the extent to which this woman expected us to not only notice her as we entered the carriage but also notice her bump and then look out for an empty seat for her if it became available. Her sense of entitlement to a seat and her expectation to be looked after – actively looked after – by a bunch of strangers really took me by surprise.
This expectation amongst people is somewhat more widespread than I had feared. I have learnt about more stories on the news. First, the protests that happened in San Francisco over tenant’s evictions by landlords. Gentrification which is occurring in a number of San Francisco’s neighbourhoods with the inflow of high-earning tech-industry workers. I understand the argument against this based on property rights and economics, but for me it represents a much deeper issue regarding people’s way of thinking: the renters in the San Francisco are claiming entitlement over a property that they do not own. The landlords invested in a property with a view to making the best return on their investment. The renters rented the property because that’s their choice. It’s not a charity set up and the contract between the 2 parties, one would think, determines their arrangement. What I fail to understand is the basis of any protests or government intervention to force either party to change the terms of the contract. It sounds like mob rule, as it implies entitlement of one of these groups over the property of a smaller group. It’s the landlord’s property and surely they should decide the terms of the contract. The tenants are free to reject the terms but if they accept, that’s their choice and they become legally binding. Learning about these protests made me feel that these tenants feel an additional sense of entitlement over the landlord’s property and expect them to show compassion in a scenario that is not intended to act as charity. It’s a business relationship and I struggle to understand where this expectation comes from.
The more recent news which I’m sure everyone has heard about is the proposal by Ed Miliband to cap private rents. For me, when individuals choose to rent, it’s their decision. It’s not something they are forced to do or have to do to survive. They weigh up their options to see what’s financially feasible given the market conditions – which is simply what the other parties will agree to – and if they can’t afford to rent, then presumably they explore different options. And again that is still no one’s business except theirs.
When I heard the news on the BBC, the journalist reporting this news interviewed two individuals working out in a gym. One of the individuals was complaining about staying at home with his parents. Hmmm….so what’s so wrong with that? He obviously needs to save up more, or change his preferences to meet his budget. But on what basis should he expect other people to look after his lifestyle requirements? Why should he expect the government to help him out? And if Ed Miliband chooses to stick his nose in his business, then why should he stop there? Surely this is favouritism, and simply down to winning votes. A larger section of the population rent compared to the number of private landlords, so perhaps Ed’s calculation is right. In fact, perhaps, the government should interfere when gym membership fees goes up and put a cap on those as well? That would have been really helpful to me in the last few months. I had to move to a gym further away from our house as the closest gym had increased its prices. I know this sounds strange but seriously, where does one stop in preventing people from taking their own responsibility?
Ed Miliband’s policy just shows his disrespect for personal responsibility, for other people’s property, and his ignorance towards what the market is. We all know that such policies will only make landlords less interested in maintaining and improving their rental properties, resulting in a smaller supply of rental units. Yvette Cooper, who appeared on Question Time few days back, sounded extremely odd when she agreed with Ed Miliband’s rent capping policy proposal and at the same time wanted the supply of rental properties to be encouraged. I’m surprised Ed Balls, her husband the Shadow Chanceller, didn’t enlighten her on the basics of supply and demand before this. I hope Yvette tells him off for letting her down. Miliband is not helping anyone apart from himself by appealing to a majority of the British public. Hopefully the public will see through that.
What’s more concerning is that such behaviour and policies really discourage a culture of personal responsibility, and surely that’s not a good outcome for anybody. I regret not telling that woman in the carriage that if she was really uncomfortable, all she had to do was ask for a seat, but more importantly I regret actually apologising to her in a situation when she clearly did not take personal responsibility and expected strangers in that carriage to be in charge of looking after her needs.