Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Taxi Driver

Part of humanity's project, besides perpetuation of the species, is to improve all aspects of human life, one generation at a time. Me, being a constituent of this species, partake in this enterprise, towards justice, humanity, for the betterment of mankind. Perfection in the human sense can't obviously be achieved, which ironically makes us all better human beings, and superficially, the superior life-force in our universe. We are not machines. We make mistakes. These mistakes have led to civilization and barbarity, beauty and atrocity, love and tragedy, all part and parcel of the complexity of humanity. A complexity we all deal with-and make sense of-on a daily basis. I'm not immune from this imperfection. How else will I learn? 

I was beginning to mind the numbing pain from my temples, exhausting heat, enough to stress me out that a possible acne eruption could occur. As I suspected, why I was experiencing this headache was due to my neglect of my self-fashioned eye-test. A test I do at home to check if my spectacles are fit for the necessities of my normal eye life. Basically, I look from a distance at my bookshelf.

After I got my new lenses installed into my old frame-which I dearly love and find really endearing toads me, which I have many fond memories of. I rushed back home as my cousin was visiting, and we had a scheduled outing-eating, watching a film, and most importantly, a vital mineral in my diet-gossiping.

As I made myself comfortable beside this really cute and sweet looking 40-ish taxi driver, I noticed how moving his eyes were. It seemed that beside his eyes being focused on the road, obviously we didn't want to wind up in an emergency room, it was deep in thought.

The fascist on the radio was going and on and on about the state of the country's affairs and in particular the way the incompetent and completely insipid way the Philippine president has dealt with that incident in Mindanao. He was making snide comments. I thought, why not communicate with me? I mean I'm right beside you? Come on, invite me into a conversation!

The stars granted me my tiny wish-a piece of my mind on his comments. The articulate driver was surprisingly in agreement with my points, and he even went further, he supported it with his own thoughts on the matter. Until, that leggy girl in the shorty-shorts passed by in that alley.

At which point, Kuya Taxi Driver went berserk. You can imagine his thoughts. The invitation-to-rape argument he used, I found appalling. But the way he justified it, I completely found fascinating. The man was well read. I, of course, insisted on my stance that in a civilized society, there is no excuse whatsoever for any violence due to intolerance, of clothing choice, race, preferences, you name it. That is the art of civilization. The art of living together. The art of weaving together disparately diverse groups into an entity that can sustain, even nourish, the diversity of these groups, while maintaining a destiny-a shared journey. 

His argument? Law is based on societal mores, on local culture, on mutual collective decisions for proper action. My argument? Democracy, without controls, is nothing but a mobocracy, it needs control. Without protecting the minority, then the majority's will is tantamount to tyranny. That's why there's a Bill of Rights, to tame the government's power. Otherwise, it's just Plato's greatest critique realized.

After Kuya and I agreed to disagree on the matter of clothes vis-a-vis local customs, he proactively went ahead and discussed passionately how the Philippines' history is a series of foibles, a constant in our lives. The way he discussed it, with such creativity, was a magnificent revelation, and cause of shame in me. While I was partially-listening to him, imaging a documentary where he's the host who uncovers, and shares prescient information, I was introspecting on my disposition towards people, I discovered that I was partaking in "the single story" eloquently discussed by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in this wonderful TEDTalk.

What I was utterly shocked of was my minimal expectation. Not the kind of expectation from his socio-economic status. I've learn that a long time ago, that a billionaire could be stupid, just as an Ivy Leaguer could be an idiot. Education wasn't just measured in those ways in my world-something I have learned and have clung to since I was a kid, and over and over again, emphasize and relearn. It's a fact, not even an opinion. To put it bluntly, I don't assume people's intelligence based on their associations, background, etc. And in this regard, I totally subscribe-just as in achievement measurement-to the adage of "it's not how you start, but how you end it, that matters."

What was his single story to me? After all, I've bonded with a lot of his fellows (in his career) in so many ways in the past. I've been toured, been fed, been told inspiring stories of human achievements, been amazed, at multiple times, by people in his profession.

How was I judging him? For a quick moment I didn't think he would tolerate, digest, and build a sophisticated rebuttal to my answer to him. Why? Because of a lapse on my part. I was preoccupied not with my values but with the situation that I forgot to institute what I believe to be true. What was the origin of this lapse? It was my underestimation of him. Him alone. Something about him. Not related to his socio-economic position, his career, his job, his speech, nothing but him. Never underestimate anybody. Never underestimate yourself. 

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