I take the bus to work every day.
No. Strike that. I walk to the Metro station, then take the Metro to the bus stop, then take the bus to work everyday. Takes about an hour or so. Gets me walking two miles a day (one mile each way), and gives me room to breathe. To meditate. To read. To think. And sometimes to talk to myself.
The early morning bus is pretty much empty.
The bus home though, is another story. Full of a combination of adults going to or coming back home from work, and kids coming from school.
And the kids? Loud as all get out. That's what they do, right?
But there are two problems here.
The first problem is that there are folks on the bus who aren't really trying to hear kids while they're coming home from, or going to work. They want to be able to sit with their thoughts and either get ready for battle, or decompress FROM battle.
The second problem is that depending on the subject matter, the kids may be divulging information they shouldn't really be divulging.
Both these problems are political problems and get to the heart of the public/private distinction in political theory.
And I've tackled the first problem on the bus before.
It's the second problem I tackled yesterday.
I'm sitting at the back of the bus with four loud kids. As I try to focus on getting home and getting my head right, they begin (loudly) asking each other questions about their personal sexual histories. I can't NOT hear them (my IPod wasn't charged). I don't want to be rude so I spend most of the bus right NOT not hearing them and trying to figure out how to intervene.
Finally, I do. I tell one of the students that one of the reasons it's important to be quiet on the bus is that you don't want the PUBLIC to know your PRIVATE business. Because you don't know how they might use it for one, and because some information is best shared only with friends. I'd taken so long because I was worried that I'd somehow offend them and the conversation would end up all wrong. But it didn't. The young lady who was, in hindsight, divulging the most understood EXACTLY what I was talking about. On the other hand another young lady didn't care. It didn't matter to her that "her business was out there."
Now again, the public/private distinction is one of the core distinctions in political theory and in democratic theory. Historically the public sphere was the sphere in which (propertied) men came together to talk about the common good, while the private sphere was the sphere in which (enslaved) men and women (in general) were "allowed" to speak. And we see this in black political thought–think Malcolm X and his ideas on black "family business". For these kids there really is no distinction. The public and the private neatly blend together.
The reason I intervened was because I think there are stakes here. That is to say, it matters that those kids are putting their business out there. They don't know who we are, they don't know how we might use that information.
In hindsight though another way to think about what they're doing is as a subversion of the public/private distinction. If kids are always supposed to be seen but not heard, and black kids are not even really supposed to be SEEN (think the various ways black youth are policed), and kids believe this dynamic to be wrong one way to resist or rebell is simply to ignore the distinction. To put their stuff out there.
The quick (adult) response to this is: "how can they get a job that way"?
To which I reply "they aren't getting jobs ANYWAY."