One would think that a civilized society would, in time, come to some accepted standards for civilized behavior. We are not talking here about anything so crude as laws; we are talking about simple decency towards your fellow humans. We do not require laws to tell people to give up their seat for a pregnant woman, or help an elderly person across the street, or refrain from cursing at waiters. We expect people to do that out of common decency. Those who would refuse to follow such simple rules simply because they are not laws are known as selfish, antisocial monsters who will likely die friendless and alone.
An airplane is an enclosed environment. For most passengers, there is not very much extra room. Space is tight. No one can go anywhere. We are collectively trapped. It is simple decency not to crudely and selfishly recline your seat into the face of your unfortunate neighbor to the rear. Yes, you could recline your seat, legally; but that would make you a selfish, antisocial monster. I trust that you are not that. I trust that you are a good person.
Sadly, everyone is not a good person. Some people, for example, might say something like: "Don't Want Me to Recline My Airline Seat? You Can Pay Me." They might, if they were a particularly odious form of Randian egoist, write, "People talk a big game on social media about the terribleness of reclining, but then people like to complain about all sorts of things; if they really cared that much, someone would have opened his wallet and paid me by now."
While the vast majority of people are willing to fall in line with the standards of common decency, it is clear that not everyone is. Some people, whose minds have been permanently warped and twisted by centuries of capitalist indoctrination, think only of themselves and their own profit, caring nothing for the comfort of others. Some people believe that if there is not a strict law in place mandating that they behave politely, they are under no obligation to do so. For these people, society must find its own form of social sanction. Otherwise, their rudeness will run rampant over us all.
Yes, you may, if you so choose, recline your airplane seat. Right into my personal space. Making me feel like a man about to die in a tight mine shaft. Condemning me to claustrophobic suffering in order to enhance your own leisure. In turn, I will spit on you. Spit on you like the wicked person that you are. In the same way that it is your technical right to recline your airplane seat into my lap, it is my technical right to spit—accidentally? Who can tell?—onto your head, and to continue doing so as long as your head is in my personal space, due to the fact that you reclined your airplane seat. This is the sort of extralegal cause-and-effect functioning that has, over time, enabled us to painstakingly build the outlines of a civilized society.
Don't want me to spit on you when you recline your airline seat? Pay me.
People talk a big game on social media about the terribleness of me spitting on them, but then people like to complain about all sorts of things; if they really cared that much, someone would have opened his wallet and paid me by now.
Or, we could all keep those seats in their full upright positions. We're all in this together.