“We all live in a tragicomic situation, a life that is in part absurd simply because it is not of our own making. We are born into a disordered world, into a family we did not choose, into circumstances we would have had somewhat improved, and we are even called by a name we did not select.”
Today I consider the roads on which I drive every day. Oahu traffic, and it’s rules (or lack there of…)
The rules people are following (or not following) most of the time these days, on this island where I live and work as a professional paratransit driver, appear to have little to do with any “rules of the road” set by the official governing powers of this society.
Whether on or off the highway, rural road or city street, driving in a residential area with children playing nearby or sitting in the daily rush-hour crawl, or even while walking among these vehicle-dominated spaces as pedestrians, people are behaving in traffic as if they exist in some kind of bubble or (perhaps most likely) a video game.
As if their behavior has no real world consequence or (perhaps more disturbingly) as if they don’t care what those consequences may be.
I have seen them ignore nearly every one of the rules of the road. From seemingly small (but actually often quite consequential) ones like not using turn signals, driving at night without headlights and rolling through stop lights and signs, to really dangerous and reckless driving. Blowing through red lights and weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds (especially motorcycles) intentionally going the wrong way on a one way road and zooming passed a traffic jam on the shoulder. I have often seen pedestrians do things equally dangerous (although less likely to injure others) like stepping into moving traffic, nowhere near a crosswalk, without even looking up from their phones.
One reading this may see it as a statement of the obvious. “Duh…” you say? Well if this is true, my point is made. If arrogant disregard, oblivious ignorance of, and/or for others, and high risk action and/or inaction, is so ubiquitous on these roads that one should assume it as such… then my premise is proven and I may now move onto my humble theory with which I might in part, explain the phenomena.
Don’t ask me to suggest what is to be done, however.
The attitude of the modern traveler to which I am referring, appears to be connected to that which I imagine was common in ancient times. Times when anyone on any road beyond the boundaries of any given settlement, was compelled by threat of violence, to see every single encounter with an eye for assessing the rank, power and possible intent of the other.
The ancient traveler did not “share the road” he was on. For as long as he was the only one on it, he owned it. As soon as this was no longer the case, the moment he knew he was approaching another traveler, he was bound to behave in accordance with the following…
If the other traveler was obviously of superior rank and/or power than himself, he must judge how he might act in such a way as to improve his situation. He might automatically and appropriately acquiesce, and thus pass his “lord” with minimal affront to his own sense of self worth, or he might decide to preemptively submit and grovel a bit. Looking for a possible reward of some kind.
If the opposite be the case, the superior ranking (or simply more powerful) traveler would usually do well to try and assess the intent of those approaching. Only those of the highest rank AND power (royalty and such) would be in a position to travel with complete impunity. It’s quite logical to assume that many of high rank and even great power were subject to a quick decent due to a failure to accurately judge the intentions of an approaching stranger. However weak or “lesser” in appearance.
Of course if there was any question as to who was “higher” and thus entitled to claim ownership of the road and determine who and how they might pass, and if negotiations were unsuccessful for some reason, a battle would usually ensue. Often to the death.
These conventions (I imagine) became codified over time. No doubt they are part and parcel of what we see now as our general rules of the road. Such things like how the practice of passing another traveler on one side or the other, had to do with which side of the body one tended to wear his sword. The determining factors for “right of way” are probably also of such ancient origin. I’m sure you get the idea. I’m not going to go further since I am no expert here and I don’t think it’s necessary to do so, to get my larger point.
What I am getting at, is that our traffic rules are inextricably connected to something more than simply what our modern industrial and informational systems have created. Transportation systems of ever-increasing complexity, designed to ensure an efficient flow of humanity as it becomes more and more mobile and connected. My point is that the traffic rules of even our most modern world, are connected to our very ancient (and thus very powerful) sense of self. Of who we see ourselves to be and how we fit into the world at large.
And our modern technological world of traffic has become overwhelming for most travelers. Choked by sheer numbers and confused by ever increasing forced cultural diversity (however beneficial in many ways) has driven people to now default into that ancient sense of self. Rejecting the modern systems derived from all those centuries of attempting to resolve conflict and build this ever-expanding “civilization”.
It seems a bit schizophrenic when I think about it.
Trying to reconcile ourselves with the dehumanizing effects of several lifetimes immersed in the mechanically imposed egalitarianism of the industrial age, and the very humanizing effects of many more lifetimes struggling with the (still-on-going) fight for social egalitarianism, and the forces of oppression continuously trying to co-opt any progress impeding their main goal of imposing their will on both… we can go a little crazy.
Thus… people retreat into their super high-tech bubbles. Amazingly engineered cars and trucks with all anyone could need to be who they are or rather, who they see themselves to be. They feel completely secure in their soundproof, injury-proof moving suits of armor. Hurdling down the highway with ease, at perviously (by ancient standards) unimaginable speeds. Surrounded by the voices and visions of only what they choose to hear and see.
They are oh so modern and yet also oh so ancient. So very powerful yet so very weak.
Bringing this schizophrenic sense of self to our modern world of traffic, heavy with humanity… is it any wonder that these “time-honored rules” get tossed into the ditch? Is it any wonder that people opt out of giving right of way? Of automatically respecting everyone’s right to the road within our previously agreed upon parameters? Opting instead for the “I own this road and you just see if you can beat me” approach.
Often to the death.
Oh yes, I do have a solution… for me. I wouldn’t presume to think I know what the solution is for “others”. My solution for myself and my sense of self (however tainted by ego and the ancients) is available to others in only one form. Call me if you feel the need to find out what it might be.