The BMW Driver Is Guilty. Of Driving A BMW.
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably read about the Caltex Incident somewhere.

Long story short: Petrol pump attendant pumps a full tank. BMW driver insists that he only asked for $10 worth. Pump attendant pays the difference of $125.

Social media explodes, destroys Mr. BMW.

Long moral short: Fuck BMW Drivers, amirite?

Wrong. Whilst I do not own a BMW and probably never will, it doesn’t take a moral philosopher to see that this case is a car on flat tires. In fact, the post and its subsequent witch-hunt embodies everything wrong with our knee-jerk sense of justice.

For starters, the BMW driver is guilty of nothing more than being a rich douchebag. The police concluded as much when they called the whole thing a ‘miscommunication‘ and urged both parties to resolve it ‘amicably’.

Perhaps the pump attendant messed up. Or maybe both of them did. Whatever the case, it’s too late. The man’s name, car plate number and even his location has been revealed on social media.

Whether this is meant to shame him or to make violence easier, I do not know.

What I do know, however, is the true nature of his crime: being rich enough to drive a BMW.

Imagine for a moment, that our driver drove a Daihatsu pickup instead of a BMW 5-series.

Imagine that he cheated not the (presumably low-income) pump attendant, but Caltex itself by simply speeding off without payment.

Now close your eyes and listen for the same howls of outrage echoing across social media.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t visualise the same mob turning up to hang an elderly uncle who drives a Chery QQ. And therein lies the problem.

We are persecuting the man not just for his dick move; we are persecuting him for being high SES, for being the classic BMW-driving asshole and for ‘bullying’ the poor pump attendant, even though the original account did not describe coercion or even raised voices.

In other words, the BMW driver is guilty of driving a BMW. Having made it far enough in life to own the automotive emblem of middle-class success, he is now a soft target for resentment masquerading as justice, and class loathing under the guise of righteous fury.

Even if he had purposefully said ‘$10’ three times with the enunciation of a BBC presenter, I doubt if social media would let him off the hook. Nothing can erase the original sin of having a fancy car, for which he must be taken to account.

That’s why every insult hurled against him fixates on his ‘cheapskate’ attitude rather than what actually happened. It shows that money (or lack thereof) is at the heart of the issue. People are angry because they expect the wealthy to show a certain princely generosity or largesse.

When they fail to do so, they become ‘bullying’ assholes that deserve punishment, even though such ‘cheapo’ behavior has zero relation to what’s right or wrong.

It’s also why the comments bay for blood despite the official verdict of misunderstanding: we are seeking justice not for the petrol, but for wealth disparity.

Hence, the justice meted out to him is no different from the justice dished out to Anton Casey, the Porsche-driving, poor-shaming expat, or that family who lamented their five-figure income earlier this year. No crime has been committed, except against our latent insecurities about money.

So, however satisfying it may be to punish the Mr. BMWs of the world, I would argue for restraint.

I’m all for calling out assholes and dickheads, but we should draw the line at posting their personal details in the hopes of inviting gratuitous violence against their person, especially when we don’t have all the facts.

Or simply can’t separate justice from jealousy.


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