On Morality

I recently became aware of a group of social media content creators called the CartNarcs (view their YouTube channel HERE). It basically consists of a bunch of videos of a “cartnarc” calling out people who leave their shopping cart strewn all over the parking lot instead of returning it to the proper cart corral which is often just steps away from where they leave it. A few kind souls hear the cartnarc’s gentle admonishment and decide to do the right thing to move the cart to where it belongs. As you might imagine, the majority of “lazy bones” and he calls them get infuriatingly upset with the man. They curse, chase him, call him names, threaten to call the police, feign an injury (one that didn’t hinder them on the way into the store, of course). The reactions are outrageously overblown compared to the circumstances. It can be comical and sometimes downright cringeworthy.

The CartNarcs got me thinking about morality. Morality is something that has been on trial in the United States for the past few years. Sides have formed, with both factions feeling like they have cornered the market on morality while the other side is considered purely evil. Of course, any sensible person knows that the world is not made up of black and white dilemmas, but of so many shades of gray. But one thing is true. Possibly the easiest test of morality is putting the cart back where it belongs when leaving a shopping center.

Let’s think about it. Everyone would agree that returning a cart is the right thing to do. As cartnarcs regularly point out, a stray cart can roll and cause damage to another person’s car. Carts left in walkways and handicapped zones can prevent disable persons from going about their day safely. And it just seems wrong to make the employees of the store retrieve stray carts when there is an efficient plan already in place for their return. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it is an act that costs almost nothing to complete. It takes generally 30 seconds or less to return a cart to a cart corral in almost any shopping center. We all have 30 seconds to do the right thing. So why do we all consistently see carts around the parking lot that are not in their appropriate location? Why do even we perhaps not adhere to this simple piece of morality?

I don’t have the answer to that question. But maybe we can use this absurdity to learn to begin the question with ourselves and to be more curious. It’s true that the world is divided right now. It’s true that there are different sides to very important issues. What I have found is that the arguments that happen on a regular basis in online posts, well-written articles, and even in the political realm do nothing to further the morality of society. It is through listening and genuine relationships that minds can transformed. Researcher and psychologist Adam Grant said, “The most underrated tool of persuasion is curiosity. A natural response to disagreement is to attack what people think. A more inviting alternative is to be genuinely fascinated by how they think. Curiosity is contagious.” If we are never truly ready to listen to reason and challenge our own beliefs and actions, we will never be able to convince others to do the same.

So the next time you are ready to click send on that nasty text or to submit that angry post because of the immorality that drives you crazy, consider… do you always return your shopping cart? Because the last thing our society needs is a bunch of non-critically-thinking, black-and-white-minded, uncurious “lazy bones.”

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