OPINION: Toronto transit submission or how I learned to stop worrying and love the TTC

(Photo by Ammi Parmar)

Wonder Woman may hold the key to improving Toronto’s public transit experience, or at least, her creator might.

When psychologist and polygraph-inventor William Moulton Marston started writing Wonder Woman in the 1940s, he imbued the comics with his theory of loving submission.

Called DISC (Dominance, Inducement, Submission and Compliance)  the theory supposes people are happiest when they submit to a loving authority.

To find DISC illustrated outside of comics, just look at your morning commute on the TTC.

What could be more dominant than the system so many of us depend on to get around? While the TTC is not solely responsible for the subway delays, broken Presto machines and overcrowded buses that plague commuters, it is their public face.

So, we have a dominator in the TTC  and a submissive in the commuter. But of course, this submission is not garnered willingly.

It’s clear the majority of Toronto’s commuters  resist submission.

You can see it in eyes rolling at delay announcements or the fist-shaking when buses too full to pick up passengers skip stops.

What’s worse are acts of rebellion: the spats, shoves and shouting matches that come when commuter tensions peak.

I once watched two women squabble intensly over some slight on a bus. They followed this up by making phone calls in which each loudly bad-mouthed the other.

Imagine a better way — one in which passengers lovingly submit to their commute.

This Marstonian way exists outside of transit planning (though we need that, too). It’s about learning to live with reality. Once you’re in the thick of it, no resistance can make a commute faster or more efficient. So, just surrender.

In this Paradise Island for commuters, we willingly don our bonds. We make space for new passengers by shuffling to the back. We take crowding and delays in stride, recognizing drivers and fellow passengers are not to blame for them.

Maybe it’s utopian. What we need is inducement, the critical piece of Marston’s equation whereby the dominator makes submission pleasurable.

For Marston, inducement often demanded an erotic component, but I’ll stop short of suggesting fare inspectors carry lassos. That would add a new layer of  meaning to, “sorry, I got tied up on the subway.”

Maybe, all people need to know is once they submit, they can relax. If we recognize we’re all bound by the same chains, maybe we’ll learn to love them.

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