I was driving in my relatively expensive and comfortable 4×4, leather seat and air conditioning cool on a hot afternoon. Picked my daughter from her paid for swimming lesson at a relatively expensive private school (only place nearby with a decent pool and coaches). We slowly drove away as children from a neighbouring government school walked on their way home. Homes far more humble than those children scrambling to climb abroad loads of large 4x4s are headed to. The cars are usually parked by people who think they are more important than the rest of us so navigating through and making sure children are seen requires full time attention.
Alas, not everyone is attentive and watching. A lady checking she has not missed the latest notification on her smartphone of tomorrow’s ‘latte decaf and careful on the sweetener’ meeting does not know one girl is brushed by a side mirror on her 4×4. The girls, there are three, decide to walk a little more prominently in the road. I like their approach. Acknowledge their assertiveness as we crawl up behind them.
The tallest girl, no more than ten years of age, acknowledges the car’s presence, it does not matter about the people in the car. She is asserting the right to go home safely as all people should be doing. I stop the car and let them walk the ten metres along the road before turning off the opposite side to take their short cut toward home. I say to my daughter, my important passenger:
‘Look at these girls asserting their rights’
‘What does assert mean’ She asks
‘To claim, to declare; to make sure you get what is yours. Does this make sense?’
‘Yes. How were they doing that?’
‘By being right to force us to take care and let them, as people, be priority over all these big cars. Is that right?’
‘Yes,’ says my daughter, ‘people come first. And those girls are being good for the environment walking to and from school.’
Good points. How many of us can say this of our own daily routines? More perhaps, and maybe the majority, in some cultures where neighbourhood schools are apparent and possibly human powered transport is safe.
In Africa, with its inequity, central locking and guards on gated communities abound. This is where the feeling of principle and practice are often divorced. Hitting the central locking is sensible. Walking places is a good move – when safe. Making points is a necessity particularly when latte sipping fools think they can drive and read messages at the same time. People have moved from expediency to laxity and regularly treat people with utter disdain.
Here is the point of this encounter. Lasting less than two minutes, we see the issues of development encompassed.
0 to 20seconds – A person not caring and simply driving through worried more about social posturing than the lives of those around her posing box on wheels.
21 to 60 seconds – Girls express their concern to each other making sure they are ok.
61 to 90 seconds – They place themselves in the ascendancy, make sure people do not ignore them.
90 to 110 seconds – A laugh, a joke, the joy of life expressed.
111 to 120 seconds – The look to communicate animosity, genuine hostility, toward another 4×4 being driven recklessly toward them.
Hostility and animosity directed toward people driving big expensive cars who do not give a shit. The power in those eyes was fantastic. This is where real action starts to turn such power to drive forward the agendas addressing, first off, road deaths, then better schooling for all and on to how we all make sure equality lives well beyond 5 star, metal detector guarded hotel conference rooms.
It starts with individual actions. All of us have to learn to look deep into people’s eyes and communicate intent to make things happen positively. By all means, enjoy the latte; but make sure to not talk about it on your telephone when driving. Make sure next time you are out and about to speak with people. Engage, listen to hopes and dreams behind the faces you see. Fore, if you do not engage and learn, then the looks will become ever more hostile. And the animosity will manifest itself in naked hatred seen in random attacks and acts of violence we all know too well. Do not believe politicians and their terrorist claims all the time, ordinary people hit by a car wing mirror can become the instrument of mind manipulators; if we do not engage.
Get off your phone and get into real social media – talk with the waiter or waitress when you order the next latte. Make a difference.