Društvo

Drive-by Wavers

Chris Farmer RSS / 08.02.2013. u 17:08

When someone speeds down the middle of Brankov Most, weaving and swerving at 130 kph, he might throw you a polite wave. As if to say, "Sorry to have caused you a near-death experience."

When a driver struggles and attempts to parallel park five times on a busy Belgrade street, he may also wave to the accumulated traffic. As if to say, "Thanks for being patient and not killing me."

How we drive, then, is a reflection of how we live in the society composed of the impolite, the rude, the aggressive, the dangerous, and the frightening. Most of the time, these five elements bring the rest of us down to their level.

I discovered this recently when I was attempting to explain to my newly motorized fiancée exactly why she should wave an excuse to the car behind her when she stalled at the traffic light on Cvijceva. As a point of principle, she need not have acknowledged anything. She could have restarted the car and proceeded as planned, which in fact she did.

And I realized that she was right.

I really wanted her to wave as a way to ward off trouble. My experience with traffic in Belgrade has brought me to the conclusion that people are complete lunatics when they get behind the wheel. I expect them to draw their weapons and raise their fists at the slightest provocation. If it had been ME, I certainly would have waved - not because I thought I was in the wrong but because I did not want to buy myself any trouble. That is precisely how I explained it - demonstrating that I am completely ready to compromise my values and principles in order to avoid problems and, eventually, violence.

I still think the urge to avoid violence is a good and useful instinct. But I am questioning now how what we do perpetuates our systemic bowing to it. "Appeasement," by the way, turned out to be a very stupid strategy for Neville Chamberlain as he watched Hitler march into Poland in 1939.

On the other hand, how can we - individual citizens - expect to change society by refusing to give into its warped set of values? How does refusing to give your doctor a bottle of whiskey protect you from getting bad treatment or (more likely) NO treatment at all? How does not accepting incompetence from a shop clerk make your shopping experience any better? How does complaining at ill-treatment get you anything more than additional ill-treatment?

And why should I apologize to a speeding driver just because I might be going slower than he?

The more we appease the rude, the impolite, the aggressive, the dangerous, and the frightening, the more of their "qualities" we can expect to endure. Now that I have said this out loud, I am faced with the choice of how I will implement this discovery in my daily life. I will probably continue to proffer perfunctory apologies, even when they are underserved, out of habit.

If you cut me off in traffic, your wave will not get you any extra points. If you are driving slowly, however, I might not now honk my horn so quickly. Living in a society that promotes habitual bad behavior based mostly on fear is not my idea of the good life.

But habits and routines and ritual compromises, like traffic lights, inevitably change.

 

Text first published in Serbian translation in Politika, February 8, 2013 

Atačmenti



Komentari (10)

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looping looping 18:04 08.02.2013

1

The more we appease the rude, the impolite, the aggressive, the dangerous, and the frightening, the more of their "qualities" we can expect to endure.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
draft.dodger draft.dodger 18:15 08.02.2013

...

escherichije_colic escherichije_colic 18:23 08.02.2013

traffic wave

It´s considered common courtesy, though people sometimes tend to misuse it for plain rude driving.
Spiridon Spiridon 18:26 08.02.2013

..

I really wanted her to wave as a way to ward off trouble. My experience with traffic in Belgrade has brought me to the conclusion that people are complete lunatics when they get behind the wheel.


You're a brave man because you write on the Serbian blog about what bothers you in Belgrade. Normally you should be verbally attacked by many local bloggers but you are harmless because you write on English and there is no danger (guess why).

Point is that this place sucks.

I truly appreciate your time and effort.
yugaya yugaya 19:28 08.02.2013

Re: ..

Spiridon
I really wanted her to wave as a way to ward off trouble. My experience with traffic in Belgrade has brought me to the conclusion that people are complete lunatics when they get behind the wheel.


You're a brave man because you write on the Serbian blog about what bothers you in Belgrade. Normally you should be verbally attacked by many local bloggers but you are harmless because you write on English and there is no danger (guess why).

Point is that this place sucks.

I truly appreciate your time and effort.


I think you are wrong - people on the blog (regulars) probably have read a lot of his earlier posts and may agree with the opinion I formed - that unlike many, many ex-pats who are modern day colonial ignoramuses, Chris has a profound understanding of all things local - which one can only generate through honest love and appreciation of the people and the country one lives and works in as a foreigner.

So, when he points out the bad stuff, it is pretty much the bad stuff that bothers anyone with a bit of sanity left 'tween the ears who lives in Belgrade, and not because he goes around jabbing all the time about how 'better and more civilized' everything is 'back home'.
juniorr juniorr 21:07 08.02.2013

Re: ..

Spiridon
18:26 08.02.2013 / *novo
..
I really wanted her to wave as a way to ward off trouble. My experience with traffic in Belgrade has brought me to the conclusion that people are complete lunatics when they get behind the wheel.


You're a brave man because you write on the Serbian blog about what bothers you in Belgrade. Normally you should be verbally attacked by many local bloggers but you are harmless because you write on English and there is no danger (guess why).

Point is that this place sucks.

I truly appreciate your time and effort.


hello, tekst prvo objavljen u "Politici", na srpskom i ćirilici........
jinks jinks 19:52 08.02.2013

...

When starting each turn of driving lessons, an old school driving instructor used to begin with: "Each time you step into a car, you are (god forbid) one leg in prison and other leg in grave. And that's what driving is all about, to begin with at least".
sima2000 sima2000 20:23 08.02.2013

Exacerbation

I drive around 25000 km per year and 90% of these is made in Belgrade.
People in Belgrade wave to me (and I wave to them) for two reasons:

To excuse for making mistake or being slow
to thank because somebody let them pass or something like that.

When you walk and hit somebody, do you say "excuse me" to avoid trouble or because you are polite?
When you walk and somebody open a door for you, do you say "thank you" to ward off trouble?

Your description of Belgrade traffic is not quite accurate. You are overreacting.

kalifumestokalifa kalifumestokalifa 20:37 08.02.2013

On driving and violence

I've noticed that behind the wheels many in my country (and based on some secondhand knowledge - many in other countries too) become much more irritable and violent.

We have a saying which says roughly translated: "He swears as a carriage-driver" (Psuje k'o kočijaš).
And Murphy's law says: "You never really learn how to swear until you sit behind the wheel" or something like it I'm paraphrasing.

George Carlin used to say: "Have you ever noticed how everyone that drives slower than you is an idiot and everyone that drives faster than you is a maniac?"

But on a serious note: the first rule of dealing with violence (directed at you):

Avoid dangerous people and dangerous places.

- The best way to avoid becoming the victim of violence is to not be where violence is likely to occur.
That’s not always possible — but it is first and best option.
One should learn to recognize and avoid status-seeking displays of aggression.
Men are easily lured into social dominance games from which neither party can find a face-saving exit.
If you want to preserve your health and stay out of prison, you must learn to avoid or defuse conflict of this kind.
When a conflict turns physical, there is always a risk that someone will be severely injured or killed. Imagine spending a year or more in prison because you couldn’t resist punching some bully who dearly deserved it, but who then hit his head on a fire hydrant and died from a brain injury. As a matter of law, the moment you engage in avoidable violence of this kind—rising to a challenge and escalating the conflict—you lose any legal claim to self-defense. Rather, you were fighting—which is illegal—and in this case you accidentally killed your opponent. You are now likely to get more practice fighting in prison. Self-defense is not about winning fights with aggressive men who probably have less to lose than you do.
Never threaten your opponent. The purpose of his verbal challenge was to get you to respond in such a way as to make him feel justified in attacking you. You shouldn’t collaborate in this process or advertise your readiness to defend yourself.
Even if violence seems unavoidable, and you decide to strike preemptively, you should do so from a seemingly unaggressive posture, retaining the element of surprise.
Thus, whatever ego problems or impulse-control issues you have should be worked out ahead of time.
You should forget about saving face while recognizing that if you ever find yourself in a social-dominance contest you will probably feel a deep urge to say or do the wrong thing.
Deciding on an appropriate course of action in advance is your best protection against being dangerously stupid in the heat of the moment.
If you want to avoid unnecessary violence, you must keep your inner ape on a very short leash.)

Principles two and three are:
2. Do not defend your property.

(Violence must truly be the last resort. Thus, if someone sticks a gun in your face and demands your wallet, you should hand it over without hesitation—and run.
If you look out your kitchen window and see a group of youths destroying your car, you should remain inside and call the police.
Unless you or another person is being physically harmed, or an attack seems imminent, avoiding violence should be your only concern. )

3. Respond immediately and escape.

If you have principles 1 and 2 firmly installed in your brain, any violence that finds you is, by definition, unavoidable. There is a tremendous power in knowing this: When you find yourself without other options, you are free to respond with full commitment.

This is the core principle of self-defense: Do whatever you can to avoid a physical confrontation, but the moment avoidance fails, attack explosively for the purposes of escape—not to mete out justice, or to teach a bully a lesson, or to apprehend a criminal. Your goal is to get away with minimum trauma (to you), while harming your attacker in any way that seems necessary to ensure your escape.

Whatever your physical skills, when you commit to using force against another person, your overriding goal is still to escape. Even if you are at home, in possession of a firearm, and well trained to use it, when confronted by an intruder your best defense is to get out of the house as quickly as possible. In such a circumstance, a gun is a means of ensuring that no one can block your exit.
tyson tyson 20:54 08.02.2013

o brother!

If you cut me off in traffic, your wave will not get you any extra points.

You are certainly becoming one of us, a true full-blooded resident of Belgrade - grumpy, rebelious, cynical nitpicker




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