Before we built large cities and skyscrapers, smooth long motorways, and even before we developed agriculture, humankind hunted for survival. They knew which animals to hunt and which to avoid. A lion, for example was an animal to avoid. The lion was deadly, with its sharp teeth and claws, and it could run as fast as 80 kilometres per hour. Thus, human beings chose to avoid the it.
It’s a humid morning and I am driving for work when a gentleman in crisp white shalwar kameez and an enviable moustache pops up in the middle of the road. He is driving on the wrong side and there is a serene smile on his face. I honk to show my frustration and he ignores me.
On my way to work every morning, there are several overhead passenger crossings, yet it is rare for me to see anyone using the overhead crossing. Rather, men, women and children brave the roads amidst the speeding and oftentimes screaming traffic. So, lack of education is of course the obvious culprit? Wrong! The man avoiding the lion knew the danger, the man crossing a highway knows that a car can destroy his body much worse than a lion ever could. Basic instincts for survival exist independently from education.
So, is it bravery then, which cause us to be recklessness on the roads? Recently, I read about a rare genetic disorder called the Urbach-Wiethe disease. It is a condition where the person suffering from it does not feel fear, and is unable to perceive danger. The sight of a man holding up his hand, as he is crossing a busy highway is a very common one. If it wasn't a common sight, anyone engaging in such stupendous foolhardiness, would have earned a medal for fearlessness or at least a trip to the doctor to check for mental retardation. Like in so many other things in our country, in this particular aspect too, madness has become the norm.
Apathy and complacency are better contenders for our impetuousness. In Pakistan, it is normal to drive like a madman, because everyone drives like one. This is the simplest form of mass behaviour. The individual does not engage himself or herself in a rational discourse, rather they follow the herd. They do not carry out an assessment of danger before crossing a highway or driving down the wrong side of the road, because they see no one else doing it.
Yet, I feel that a rant on lack of traffic reforms or absence of government interest would be useless. On the issues ranging in importance, this is not important for anyone, people or government alike. This would be a boring debate, without any pizzazz, and lacking rallying cries which attract the people.
As a lawyer, and because of happenstance, I was able to observe the court proceedings in the Panama Case. Therefore, I was tempted to write about it, to observe and reflect on the controversy created around the Joint Investigation Team (JIT), and to predict the rise and fall of one political party or the other. Yet, I felt that writing about the way we conduct ourselves on the road is a truer reflection of our selves and also a convenient way for me to avoid giving a pre-mature analysis.
However, ironically enough, the way in which we behave on the roads might be a perfect manifestation of our political issues. Messy, frustrating, without rational discourse and deadly.
The writer is a LUMS graduate, having done his BA-LLB and is currently a practising lawyer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org