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Walking (on the) Right (EN)

. 2 min read

I’ve attended a 2-day workshop on anti-corruption in Bratislava, at the UNDP Regional Center—the most informative, competent and enticing workshop in years 🙂 I walked the streets, and revisited some places in the old town, sipping hruškovica, borovička and jolly good beer, remembering good times from 2 years ago… There may be plenty of similarities between Slovaks and Romanians, but I’m thinking they joined the EU 3 years earlier, they already got the €uro, and the city center is fabulous—plenty to be jealous about 😉 I still wonder why Slovaks walk the streets with a smile on their face, while Romanians with a frown?!?

It’s been more than a week, but I still reflect upon the impact of One World 4 in Romania. [As I was telling my friends, I reflect so much lately, on so many things, I might turn into a reflector 😉 Question is, who’s willing to look in my mirror?] I’ve seen Bogotá Change just one day after attending a small APD conference about local democracy and decentralization in Bucharest—sector 1, for starters 🙂 While APD continues its research about the Bucharesters’ public agenda, preparing voters for the local elections in spring 2012, I ask myself what may we learn from the Colombian experience of Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa?

Probably the most pressing lesson is that political adversaries may find ways to cooperate, if/when they understand their roles and contributions in catering to the needs of the people. I wish that Bucharest’s 7 mayors (one for each of the 6 sectors, and one for the entire city) could, one day, realize this very simple truth. But people also need to shape up! It really bothers me that, in Bucharest (unlike Bratislava!), daily, I bump into agitated people, rushing through—people that no longer take on the right of the sidewalk 🙁 What’ll happen when cars start driving on the left? Shall we bring in the Colombian mimes, and start using red cards in traffic?

I actually do signal what I consider deviant behavior, both when I walk and ride my bike. Especially taxi drivers scorn my attitude, but 2 out of 3 drivers actually apologize and move out of the way, so I think there’s room for improvement. Unfortunately, I haven’t found (yet!) an effective way of signaling how much I appreciate (what I consider) conforming/acceptable behavior. For that’s the little I can do to educate drivers, bikers and pedestrians on a topic of larger consequence than mere order in the streets. Offering the right models in walking the streets may lead to fixing other behaviors, as well, I think 🙂

One rainy day, I engaged a taxi driver parked on the curb, and explained that moving his car just 2 meters back would allow for people walking off the sidewalk, rather than jumping over a puddle of water. Honestly, he didn’t think of the context; he was unable to sense the discomfort he was causing others; once aware, he acted promptly. Chaos simply numbs our sensitivity about social situations, individual needs or specific, natural limitations of civility. Since a driver can’t fathom his car is actually pushing all pedestrians through the puddle, why expect his representative to pay attention to rule-of-law, policies, objectives or rights and freedoms?

Yes, I know, a lot of people wonder how would we manage an earthquake, when compared to the Japs… But then, again, how’s Pipo-Kun different from the Bogotá mimes? Could we have a chance, in Bucharest, with such social “models”? Watch at least one story (min. 2:36) in this lengthy documentary, and you’ll know what I mean… Ridicule and peer pressure may yield better results, sometimes 😉

Video created by Studio Indie for the Harnessed and unharnessed energies session at the Civil Society Forum, Bratislava 2009.