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The ungovernable we

Rhona Canoy .

SO… I’ve spent the last few days being reminded of the indomitable nature of the Pinoy. Oh, yes. We are unsinkable and cannot be tamed. Which mostly is to our detriment. Being an undisciplined and unruly bunch, we have a peculiar way of maneuvering through life.

We like to pretend that we live in a society that is defined and limited by laws and rules. Don’t argue with me. We pretend. And I can state this will all the conviction that my overweight being allows. I spent an hour a couple of days ago looking out the office window while my computer printer was being repaired. The nice thing about being at a busy intersection is that there is so much to watch. What caught my attention was this obviously new car squeezing itself into position trying to park in a non-viable space. After all, we know that from the corner to where the black and yellow stripes are painted on the curb is a no-parking zone.

So half of the car was where there were no stripes and the front half invaded the no-parking zone. Nonchalantly, the male-type person got out of the car, clicked his automatic chk-chk locking gizmo and walked away. I don’t think he was aware that across the street there were two traffic aides in full regalia who were assigned to the area to implement traffic and parking policy. True enough, when they got to the aforementioned corner, they stood on the sidewalk seemingly discussing their options regarding the car. I always wonder what there is to discuss if the violation is obviously staring them in the face.

Finally, I guess they decided that they were going to install a boot on the wheel. And, like magic, as soon as the boot was locked into place the owner guy shows up with an irritated look on his face. Arms were waved in the air, inaudible (to me) words were exchanged and there was an energetic debate for quite a few minutes. Eventually, the two traffic officers disappeared on the other side of the car presumably to remove the offending wheel boot. Subsequently, the officers left, the driver got into his car and drove away.

Here’s where I’m confused. The car was obviously in violation because I would have to be completely blind (I’m only partially so) not to see that the car was parked in a no-parking zone. This observation was validated by the fact that the two traffic guys deduced that installing a wheel boot was warranted. Enter irate driver, stage left. Regardless of the offending position of his car, he had the watermelon-sized cojones to be the angry one. Sadly, since the car was blocking my view, I will never know what transpired between the gentlemen to result in the unlocking of the wheel boot which allowed the male-type guy to drive away.

Segue to a few blocks down the road. Yes, I was quite busy that day. Shiny expensive SUV was double-parked along a main thoroughfare impeding the flow of traffic, no driver in sight, hazard lights flashing. Different traffic guy was circling the offending vehicle, peering into the window of the car, occasionally looking up and down the street hoping for the operator of the offending vehicle to appear. After a few minutes, the car owner appeared, chk-chk’ed the lock and was attempting to get into the car while carrying on a heated conversation with the traffic guy. Eventually, the conversation ended and the car guy drove away.

As in the previous situation, car owner guy presented himself as the aggrieved party, irritation clearly showing in his face and body language, arrogant demeanor for the world to see. Which brings me to my mental crisis. As a rule, we Filipinos don’t seem to like rules. We get irritated (to say the least) if we are caught violating some rule, whether it be traffic or civil or criminal. And we try to bully our way out of any consequence that is due us. We don’t like to follow rules and, for some reason, we each like to think that our circumstance should exempt us. Here’s the thing. We get most irritated when we get caught. And we get irate if we can’t bully our way out of a sticky situation.

It is a given that we are a culture that shies away from any form of accountability. We don’t know how to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. And I accept any consequence as a result of my actions.” We like non sequiturs. Case in point:

Traffic officer: Sir, excuse me but you’re parked in a no-parking zone.

Offender: I only stepped out of the car for a second. And I don’t like your tone of voice.

What is that? We have a penchant for obeying any rule ONLY if some authority is looking. Not because obeying the rule is the right thing to do. Not because obeying the rule results in a more orderly and peaceful society. But because someone is looking. And to avoid consequences at all cost. Sneak around, over, under, through the law. So why do we insist on having laws at all? Wouldn’t it be better for our psyche if we all agree to just turn our society into a wild-west free-for-all? Where everyone gets to do what they want? I mean, after all, isn’t that what it is when no one is watching?

Drivers will run red lights if they think no one is looking. And sometimes even if someone is looking. And they will blame the other guy if their vehicle is more dinged up than the other one. Regardless of who is at fault. In a way, our laws add to the confusion. If a motorcycle driver (who doesn’t seem to know any traffic rules) gets hit by a car because the motorcycle turned left from the right lane, more often than not, the car driver bears the brunt of the consequence. Even if the motorcycle driver has no license, has no vehicle registration, has no helmet. Because the offending offensive motorcycle driver is more vulnerable than the car driver. Who may have no fault other than not stopping in time to prevent the accident. Which has a lot to do with the laws of physics.

We don’t like rules when the rules apply to us or do not serve us well. Hence, indomitable—a word with positive connotations, usually. Here’s how it is defined in the Cambridge dictionary: (adjective) (of a person) strong, brave, and impossible to defeat or make frightened. Yes, that’s how we would like to be described—as a people with indomitable will. But consider this. Partnered with the appropriate word that describes us, aren’t we indomitably ungovernable?

Sometimes, my hoplessly optimistic nature wonders if I should just be hopeless.

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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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