Anarchy in the streetsCebu Daily News
Ang Tigbuhat is restoring his motorcycle. It is an ancient 1970s model Honda XL125sz. He drove it in his youth all the way until he had his first two kids. He drove them in it daily to and from school. For many years his bike was in a sense his life. In his late mid-life, he dreams of riding his old bike once again.
But he drives a sensible car now. And it might be the natural consequence of doing that that he has grown quite ambivalent with motorcycles and motorcycle drivers–they call themselves riders. He cannot help it. He has seen too many gruesome accidents involving motorcycles, has gone through too many close scrapes with it. In the last one, the motorcycle quite suddenly swerved in front of him to avoid a wet pothole, almost daring him to get into a head-on collision unless he stepped on the brakes. It was too late to do that.
He didn’t even try for fear of losing control. He considered himself quite lucky the other guy managed to swerve back to his lane in time. But after this close call he wondered once again: Are these people trying to kill themselves?
But perhaps this is all just a question of perspective. Perhaps the road has begun to stratify into classes just like the rest of Philippine society. And as one might guess, each class will have its own set of prejudices.
In the case of motor vehicles the classes define themselves by the number of wheels. Motorcycles have two. Cars have four. Bigger vehicles can have as many as six all the way to ten. Each class is defined by its own set of viewpoints, its own “world” view, its own set of experiences. And it is not quite surprising that every class hates the other and interprets the natural acts of the other to be inimical, uncaring, unfair and abusive. These are all, of course, only prejudicial views resulting ostensibly from the essential fact of mutual competition. It is equally not surprising that this prejudice is inevitably dangerous if it is allowed to continue unchecked. But what can be done about it?
Just like all manner of prejudices, the solution must start with sensible people looking at the world from the other’s perspective. And then one might see that the classes are not too essentially different even if they have to look at the world differently. And we must start from the primary view that while it is true there are very many bad motorcycle riders, there must be also an equal percentage-number of bad car drivers as there are bad truck or bus drivers.
The culture on the road is only a single phenomenon. The view that all motorcycle riders are bad is only as equally defensible as that all bus drivers are bad. And just because you might drive a sensible car you cannot start off claiming there are no bad car drivers out there. Indeed, there are many. And you might have at some point and part on the road asked just like Ang Tigbuhat: Are these drivers trying to kill themselves?
The fact is, the road is essentially a dangerous place. And indeed it is becoming all the more so the more vehicles of all types there are and the more speedy our urban life becomes. And it is a fact, we cannot tolerate the same anarchy that prevails in our society to dominate life in the streets. Otherwise, more people will be injured. More people will die.
We will have to combat this anarchy. The best way to do this is simply by enforcing laws. If the laws are insufficient, we have legislatures at all levels of government to enact laws where they are needed. But many think, and they are probably right, that the laws are already numerous enough. What is needed is really more enforcement of laws and penalizing law-breakers. We have no excuse for failing to do this. If we must increase the number the traffic enforcement personnel, then by all means we should do it. That surely will have its immediate effects.
But there are also cultural considerations to reckon with. In a state of anarchy there is never an oversupply of respecting the other’s rights and space. There is never an oversupply of viewing the streets from the other’s perspective. The language of anarchy is always competition and power. And these translate always to hatred and rage and inevitably to injury and death.
The car driver may wonder why motorcycle riders drive as if death did not exist. But viewed from the saddle of a bike the world looks quite different. Car drivers have no respect for motorcycles. They behave as if motorcycles are interlopers into the streets, as if motorcycles have the lesser right to be here just simply because they are smaller and have not the same defenses as a car. In a state of anarchy. This lack of respect is always mutual. And it always cuts both ways.