06 October 2006

Hypocrisy In Service To Civilization

In today's Bleat, Lileks says, apropos of the Somali cab drivers in Minneapolis who refuse to take passengers carrying alcohol:
I’ve taken a lot of cabs in the East Coast. Hindus, Jews, Muslims. No one ever complained if I had a Big Mac in my hand, or asked if it had bacon, and the Muslim cabbies who picked me up outside of various bars surely knew I was carrying alcohol, if only in bloodstream form. Truth be told, my introduction to actual real-life Muslims came in the form of many cabbie colloquies. I’m sure the hard-core guys just kept their mouths clamped, but I remember a few inter-faith dialogues, and they all boiled down to the same things – respect, tolerance, everyone likes Jesus, peace, have a nice night, smiles all around.
We've all had these conversations, particularly when carrying alcohol in bloodstream form. I assume that none of us confuse them with Interfaith Dialogues. They are much better than that.

It used to be that we could rely on money to be the universal solvent. People would come to America, many would live in ethnic ghettos where they would speak honestly with the like-minded and follow their quaint folk ways. But every day the men (usually) would have to travel into the majority world and conform enough to earn a living. Over time, with the help of the public schools and the media of the day, the ghetto culture would be subsumed in the majority culture, changing in large ways while changing the majority culture in small ways. The melting pot was a crucible, not a stew pot.

Now we have lost our willingness to enforce conformity with penury. We certainly will not get conformity. The question is whether we can avoid penury.


Peter Burnet said...

Thanks for posting about this. It seems to be all the rage around the blogosphere. The majority seem to be foaming about this outrageous challenge to the right of free men everywhere to transport booze in taxis, while a minority of valiant libertarians suggest it all hinges on property law. So far I've resisted the temptation to ask what happens if the cab is leased.

I assume there is a background here. Maybe too many taunting, over-refreshed, in-your-face passengers. Maybe the wrong kind of Imam got to them. Maybe both. But whatever it is, you have put your finger on the real problem, which is that we don't know how to push back firmly but respectfully anymore.

There are solutions to this kind of clash---there always are. But they won't be found by everybody pitting one uncompromising right against another. The combination of Muslim zeal and the ACLU mentality is a forbidding and very worrisome one, but it isn't helped by our creative ability to relate each and every aspect of modern secular life to the dreams of the Founders. I don't see any way the taxi-drivers should be allowed to get away with this, but then I don't see much evidence on our side that the advent of a new immigrant culture might oblige us to open our minds a bit too when we deal with them, if only to validate our frequent boasts about how much more welcoming we are than the Europeans.

Duck said...

I actually agree with AOG on this one. Don't most states have an "open container" law forbidding the operation of a motor vehicle when there are open containers of alcohol in the car?

There are many non-sharia reasons why a cabbie wouldn't want to allow a person carrying an open container of booze in his car. Firstly, the problem with spillage. Someone who is drunk is more likely to spill his drink, and alcoholic beverages will leave an odor in the car that will linger and make his cab less appealing to other riders. Second, is the problem with drinkers vomiting in his car. This is a risk with drinkers only carrying in the bloodstream, but fresh booze in the gut will make vomiting more likely. The third is making an assessment of the character of the person that you'll be entering into a business relationship with. A cab ride is a business deal, not a constitutionally guaranteed public service. Store owners have the right to refuse service to people who are drunk or behaving oddly or belligerently or not wearing a shirt or shoes.

Why is riding in a cab with an open containers a cultural practice that defines our values system? Why do we have to draw a line on this?

David said...

Duck: I haven't seen anywhere that this policy is limited to open containers.

I don't disagree that, within limits, business owners should have latitude to set the rules for whom they will do business with. But there are a lot of limits imposed by the government. In particular, cabs are supposed to be common carriers, who take anyone who needs their services. Famously, cabs can't even refuse to go into certain neighborhoods where there chances of being robbed are greater.

Hey Skipper said...

IIRC, in connection with this story I read of a Muslim cabbie who refused to transport a blind woman.

Because of her guide dog.

If this isn't justifiable, then neither is declining to carry someone possessing a closed container.

Peter Burnet said...

Geez, Skipper, of course it can be. You just posted a long argument on the DD about how you can use reason to construct ethics without faith and here you are unable to distinguish between a religiously prohibited vice and visceral aversion to the handicapped. There isn't one person out of a thousand on the street who wouldn't see that difference instantly, both categorically and compassionately.

However, if you posited a blind women with a guide pig, that would one to give the sages migraines.

Hey Skipper said...


They are both religiously prohibited.

So, tell me, how, using a faith based argument, do you distinguish between the two?

And why does the cabbie get to impose his religion upon a passenger?

If you go there, then you open the door to any non-Muslim cabbie to decline to transport Muslims, due to some distaste for a religion happy with forced conversion.

Peter Burnet said...

I guess you got me, Skipper. I've been trying to google the Vatican sites to find the part about taxi regulations in their statements on interfaith diologue, but I've drawn a blank.

Only you would see this as imposing a religion on you. Tell us, do you demand glasses of milk with your smoked meat in kosher delis?

Can you link us to the authority for the proposition that Islam prohibits guide dogs?

Duck said...

OK, so I read the actual story. These are closed containers that passengers pick up at the duty free shop. I was under the impression that people had open containers in the cab.

This from Volokh:
"The observant drivers object only to transporting openly displayed alcohol, said Ali Culed, a Somali Muslim who's been driving an airport cab for eight years. They won't search passengers or quiz them about what's in their bags."

This is a problem that can very easily be solved. I'm curious as to the passengers that are calling cabs with armfuls of liquor bottles. How often does this happen? How much booze are these people hauling in from duty free? Can't they find a convenient way to stow their purchases?

I never understood the whole duty free appeal. How much do you save, and who drinks that much to make saving on duties an economic concern?

Hey Skipper said...


Here's your link.

I have a religious prohibition against carrying those whose religion requires them to kill me.

Do I get to bump them off my plane?

If not, why not?

After all, in the realm of objective morality, it would seem to this blinkered materialist that questions of murder rather outweigh those of vintage.

You just posted a long argument on the DD about how you can use reason to construct ethics without faith ...

Either I was even more than usually incoherent, or you completely missed the boat.

I'm going to go with the second option, as I am pretty sure the word "ethics" doesn't make an appearance.