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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, October 3, 2014
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Come to think of it
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia



I was at a stoplight the other day, in the middle lane, waiting for the light to turn green and go straight ahead when a jeepney hurriedly occupied the rightmost lane beside me. The jeepney driver who obviously thought that performing a “public service” exempted him from all known rules of road courtesy and decency, was at that point not only blocking what had been an open lane allowing motorists to turn right anytime with care, he was also preparing to cut into my lane as he was obviously intending to turn left all the way from that rightmost lane.

So there I was, fuming as I anticipated that the jeepney driver would violate a handful of traffic rules in one fell swoop, and wishing that  I was the car in front of the queue because right there and then I was in the mood to risk a road rage incident by blocking the jeepney from rudely and illegally turning right from way out of line, while firmly asserting my right of way and not giving in to do what he obviously intended to do.  I was hoping that the car in front on me, that was in the position to do what I would have done, was driven by someone who had the same vigilante tendencies as I had. But when the light turned green, he meekly gave way when the jeepney driver forced his way in and cut across our paths, doing what he knew he could always get away with.

I know that I have discussed the issue of road rage before and have even recommended that we have to avoid putting ourselves in situations that would make us vulnerable to that deadly phenomenon, but it was while waiting for the light to turn green and knowing that some abusive prick was going to do whatever the hell he wanted because nobody was going to stop him that I realized road rage will be doubly difficult to eliminate in a country where there is nobody to enforce basic rules.

People get away with pretty much anything in this country because of the lack of enforcement of laws and the general lack of awareness of the concepts of common courtesy and decency. We are a country of pushovers because the abusers know that there is nobody to protect those who  follow the rules, and that everyone else is too meek to stop them or firmly push back.

Those who think they are entitled to extra rights, or that the rules don’t apply to them, are empowered by the knowledge that there is the absence of a government presence that could remind or intimidate everybody with  the rules and that everybody else is a pushover who will ultimately let them do whatever they want.

That was the mentality of the jeepney driver in my story. That is the frame of mind of people who unashamedly drive in a counterflow when traffic stalls. That is how people who park inconsiderately think. Morons who cut queues share the same point of view and that is also why jeepney passengers stop the vehicle when they want to get off anywhere they please. If you come to think of it, living in a nation of weakly enforced laws and populated by pushovers who do not know how to assert their rights is the reason why our corrupt politicians continue to steal millions upon millions of pesos without any remorse.

So is it actually possible to push back without endangering ourselves? My stoplight example and the action I wanted to take was obviously a dangerous one,  and it was probably my pushover guardian angel that was driving the car in front of me but I believe there are ways we can actually push back. The first and most obvious way would be to stop doing the pushing. Try being a decent and considerate human being and follow the rules for a change. The second way we can push back is to start pushing our apathetic and lackadaisical authorities to do their jobs and stop the cycle of abusive, borderline illegal behavior. The third way that we gentle Filipinos may not be ready to try, is to gently but firmly confront the offenders when they exhibit such behavior. It may be almost impossible and inadvisable to do when vehicles are involved,  but there are many other situations where we can stop being pushovers.

Don’t allow people to cut the line. Don’t say “ok lang” when the cashier is too lazy to give you the proper change. Join the “I park like an idiot Bacolod” group in FaceBook and join in the movement to shame idiot parkers into extinction.  If you are one of my few jeepney driver readers, refuse to stop anywhere the customer asks you to stop, and dare to pull over properly and make them walk a bit.

Don’t invite a corrupt politico to be a guest of honor or to be a wedding or baptism sponsor. Remember that your taxes pay for his salary and when he steals, he is stealing from you so grow a backbone and ask him about his cases,  and any allegations of corruption against him when he is making small talk or courting you for your vote, and look at him in the eye when he replies.

We won’t get pushed around only if we stop being pushovers. Yes, a government that does not tolerate abuse would also be nice, but the bottom line is that we can’t just count on the government to grow a backbone if its people can’t grow one for ourselves.*



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