Depending on your point of view, Steven Slater is either a hero, a jerk, or a criminal.
So which is it? Are you in the "Steven Slater Fan Club?"
Since a blog should contain personal opinions, here is mine. Every day, each of us plays a societal role. We are each a professional in a chosen profession. Steven Slater professes he loves the airline industry and this is the role he has chosen to play. He just decided to stop playing that role on that particular flight.
In the excellent book "The Reflective Practitioner," Donald Schön wrote:
In the traditional professional-client contract, the professional acts as though he agreed to deliver his services to the client to the limits of his special competence, to respect the confidences granted him, and not to misuse for his own benefit the special powers given him within the boundaries of the relationship. The client acts as though he agreed, in turn, to accept the professional’s authority in his special field, to submit to the professional’s ministrations, and to pay for services rendered. In a familiar psychological extension of the informal contract, the client agrees to show deference to the professional. He agrees not to challenge the professional’s judgment or to demand explanations beyond the professional’s willingness to give them. In short, he agrees to behave as though he respected the professional’s autonomy as an expert.
Here is a summary of Schön's points. As a professional, each of us is expected to deliver our services in an agreed-upon way, respect the confidences given to us by the client, and not misuse our power. In exchange, we expect clients to render some type of compensation for our services, respect our authority, and follow the advice that we give.
The jetBlue story is still being sorted out, but initial indications pointed to an unruly foul-mouthed passenger who disrespected Steven's professional role. Responding in a likewise unprofessional fashion, Steven called it quits in a way that will be recorded forever in Internet History.
There was misuse of professional power; by deploying the emergency chute, Slater basically grounded the plane until everything was put back to normal (reports say three hours minimum). Because of this, he probably delayed jetBlue passengers on several flights.
We might find that story erroneous and discover that Steven created the mess with no assistance (if so, he should have waited until Friday the 13th for more impact!).
Personally, I see an issue in our American culture where we have pushed the concept of individualism to a point where we have lost our personal humility (and I am speaking as an expert in lifelong humility issues).
It is one thing to have individual freedom, but quite another to go to an extreme where we become totally self-centered and lose compassion for other individuals. At that point, we lose sight of our personal role in society and behave inappropriately. We demand respect while dishing out disrespect on everybody else around us.
Lots of people might join the "Steven Slater Fan Club," but in the "I'm the Only Important Person Fan Club," there is room for just one member.