Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Queueing and Democracy

This afternoon I did the simple thing of paying my electricity at a Bayad Centre and then buying some bond paper at the store right next to it. At the pay centre, the lady in front of me had her electricity, water and phone bills in hand. As she was counting her money, a young man came in. He made the motion of cutting in front of me, but then I was much taller than him, and I made tiny motions to signal with my body that he was not going to make singit. I stood my ground and so he backed off.

At the school supply shop I waited patiently for the boy to have his photocopying business done. When he was about to finish a woman came in and had the audacity to want to be served first. Incensed I asked the sales person to serve me first, as I arrived earlier. My tone of voice clearly communicated I was upset. The lady who came after me had the audacity to smile knowingly, as though she actually thought I was reprimanding the sales person and not her.

Ah. The courtesies of the bourgeoisie. We queue and wait our turn because we expect to be treated fairly - by the school supply shop, by the bus stop, by the restaurant, by the government bureau. We often turn up our noses at this rude and uncouth practice of the 'masses.' Cutting in line over everyone else. It is, after all, the ultimate sign of disrespect. But coming from their perspective, it is completely rational behaviour. Because the system does not treat everyone fairly. Those who have the means purchase public service 'more expensively' to avoid inconvenience. And those who have no means invent ways to circumvent the system.

In the society we have evolved into these past few decades, it is clearly every person for herself. Everyone wants to "one-up" everyone else. From the littlest things, as the queuing incident, to the biggest multi-billion-Peso-worth things. How cruel. And how feudal.

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