Sunday, May 22, 2005

100MPH on I90 is legal !

Imagine this.. suppose the authorities were to announce that for a whole week, there will be no speed limits on all interstate highways in US. What do you think will be the average speeds? Will they still stick to the 5 mile margin on existing 65mph? Or, will it go upto 80-90mph?

Is one's civic sense & social responsibility high if one follows the rules, just because they dont want to be pulled up by the cops, cited, fined, points added to license, insurance premiums increased. In effect not wanting aa moment's speed thrill resulting in several 100s of dollars lost! Or is it high if one follows the rules regardless of penalty- truly believing in the sense & semantics of the rule rather than fearing the penalties imposed for violating the rule. I truly believe that the latter is the true civic sense. The former is purely a financial consideration- and not civic sense.

I visit Europe often. I lived in US for a long time. The civic sense is quite high in Europe. In US, most rules get followed more because of the urge to avoid the penalties rather than because the rule makes sense.

Ofcourse, I now live in my home country, India. Here the sense of civic sense is different fromboth US & Europe. India is a country of "thinkers". Each one really has an individual mind. And this is evident clearly on the roads :-). Talking about traffic, sure we have traffic rules in India. We have cops as well. We do have penalties- the legal kind via the tickets & fines or the not so legal kind via the bribes. But as a nation we follow rules more in its violation than in its compliance. Yet the system works! The traffic moves. With much less clog than the freeways in US. With much less accidents than one would expect. It is because, people "think"!

On the road if a driver makes a "mistake" and cuts into your lane, you would slow down. Sure, you honk. Probably drive upto him and scream your heart out with choice expletives! But at the end of the day there was NO accident! Same with everything else. A pedestrian cust across, all traffic would screech to a halt! Even if a vehicle comes in the wrong direction, suprisingly there is never a head on collision!! Really.. statistically there are very few head-on collisions in Indian cities. Even though there are not may roads with dividers and hardly any rules being followed!

Again, this is because people "think". In Europe the roads are relatively safer because people "think". And not because people are scared of the fines and the further financial losses due to insurance hikes. Ofcourse, Europe's thinking is more keeping others in mind ("civic") than probably in India. But in both cases things work not because of the rules, but because people think!

Now, am not suggesting that there be no rules at all. That would be communism. Where "collectively" everything is decided and realised. That system is now a confirmed failure!! At the same time one cannot also believe that just strictly sticking to the rules is enough for being civic! Worse, condescendlingly claim that that there are no systems elsewhere that work!

I can understand why one would feel so. Someone from US visiting any Asian country would feel that there is more chaos & anarchy on the roads there. And in general in society itself. That is because that paradigm there doesnt fit the US ways of thinking & working. That doesnt mean there are no rules & laws there and that things dont work there. Which is the trvial conclusion drawn by most visitors. Completely overlooking the fact that these are otherwise well functioning countries. That in the past few decades have come quite some ways to undo the the centuries of oppression- the same centuries when Europe & US were rapidly growing. India is now fully a functioning democracy. Vibrant and colorful. The hues of color in no leass measure from the pure statesmen to hardcore criminals in our politics. But still a system where the "voter" is feared during every election. Voter's wrath gets cast in every election. Failed governments always get elected out of power. Where there is never a case of ambiguity when it comes to election results needing several weeks and legal intervention to interpret the election!

In short, just because one doesnt understand the system, one cannot assume there is NO system. If the system doesnt fit into one known models, doesnt mean that the system is neessarily flawed! It ticks me off when someone makes such conclusions! And it ticks me even more so when my friends and aquaintances, that were born in India and by some luck end up living in US, end up thinking just the same. Trying not to understand the system. Instead shamelessly claim that the system is a failure, and that the systems in US works. Completely forgetting again, that things work. In spite of the odds (oppression, polulation, economic backwardness et al), things work. We have had 6-10% annual growth for a long time (not many know that we have had that even thru the 60s & 70s- just that we were so far behind economically that the rate didnt matter. Now that we have made some progress, and countries like China & India are making a negative economic impact on countries like US, we get noticed.)

Things just work. Again, because people "think". I always considered a socialistic-democracy to be a much better form of governance. Which is what we have. And which works well for us! :-)


Blogger kashyap2005 said...

hmmm.. I wish I could look at it that way. I have come back to India after several years in US and the traffic chaos is something that's been hard to digest.

People think ... Why is it that when the signal goes green every one honks ?

I do agree that somehow things have been working okay in spite of all the chaos. But don't you think that things can be improved. What is wrong in having some order ?

okay, I have a lot in mind .. may be some time next time.

5:36 AM  
Blogger renu said...

Nice one, Had very similar thoughts after visiting US & Europe, end of the day whatever works for the given soceity!

2:41 PM  

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