Madmen

It is a fact that Guyana is a lawless state. In so many ways, we lack the norms of societal etiquette. But just coming out of Road Safety Month there is one instance I would like to point out – the story of the pedestrian, the driver and the police.

While I was learning to drive, my instructor, a former policeman, told the class to “Watch out for the Madman” no matter who you are – pedestrian or driver, there is a madman always lurking on the roads, so be vigilant.

And only now, months later, do I understand his terminology. Everyone on the road is mad; including me and you. And sometimes we need to examine the madness inside of us. Guyanese pedestrians cross the roads at any point; they do not look left or right, they just jump off the curb and walk across the street. As my dad says, “Some people see cars and buses lying down in hospital beds.” Indeed many of us have the mentality that once we are on the road a vehicle MUST stop and gave us the right of passage.

But then again vehicles don’t stop. No one passes the courtesy to pedestrians anymore. Everyone is in hurry; going too fast to even acknowledge the long-waiting pedestrian – so they force themselves through. And then there is the maddest man of them all…

During the Caribbean Comedy Festival, Guyanese comedians bombarded the police force from the Minister of Home Affairs to the rookie on the streets – and there is perfect reason to. It starts from the top, the reason we have reached this ‘don’t care’ point is because the TOP shows no respect and no example to follow.

The police can stop a vehicle, point out all the wrongs, says he is enforcing the law but then subside when a ‘lil tip’ is offered. I have a friend who bribed his way out of a court session once with a box of pastries and bread! My Lord! Times can’t be that hard!

Now this ‘friend’ I have is a young driver. He has not been on the streets for more than a year and now is forced to learn driving through practical means because, as he claims, he read half of the Study Manual. But this friend is the most fearless driver I have ever encountered. He does not care about the laws – most people don’t, if the laws prevent them from exercising their freedom. But what is dangerous is that he is adamant that HE is higher than the guidelines and as such the road is his.

In another instance a police officer pulled over and charged this same ‘friend’ for having his phone in his hand. He was not on his phone but it was in his hand. It was raining, a time when one needs to have both hands on the wheel and to be attentive with no distractions. He argued that he was not using the device but rather was “keeping it firm”.

The policeman did his job and tickets this friend. The friend calls a friend who calls a higher rank who steps down his dominance and the ticket story is over. All these madmen gone free, no justice, no lesson learnt.

Today I gave you five instances of madmen: The pedestrian who can’t wait; the driver who will never acknowledge the tired pedestrian; the driver who believes he owns the road; the policeman who can never stand firm; the higher rank who tells the officer doing his job to cool off.

Now if you reverse this true story you will see that since the high ranking officer cannot set an example, the disrespect and lawlessness flows down to the police, the driver and to the pedestrian. We are all mad only because we learn it. We were born into a trap and are destined to live in a ‘mad’ society unless we change what happens at the top and that is a challenge we are yet to face. (Jairo Rodrigues)

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