Wednesday, April 04, 2012

New identities

With cash dwindling rapidly these past few days (a common scenario with this freelancing thing) taking a taxi is now simply out of my list of possible transportation modes. Especially since they've increased (or are planning to raise) again the local cab's flag down rate. So, I took this jeepney here in Manila one weekend, going to the malls. At this major intersection along the highway, my ride had trouble moving on despite the fact that the traffic lights have all turned green. After a few minutes, several meters and vehicles towards the front of the line, we got a glimpse of what was causing the whole traffic jam: a big group of motorcycle riders have all gathered around another jeepney, its driver trying hard to smile and defuse the tension while explaining his case to the obviously irritated crowd around him.

It seemed that the jeepney driver had made some zigzagging moves going in and out of this newly-established motorcycle lane, and had antagonized several motorcycle riders in the process. It didn't look like the motorbike riders were all traveling in this big group. I think it was simply a case of people spontaneously banding together to face that common foe and assert their rights. With each individual probably thinking: what if I was the one sideswiped by that crazy jeepney driver from hell? Time to take a stand and discipline these pasaways - unruly people in society who love to be whipped into line. Quite a scenario indeed, considering that jeepney drivers here in the Philippines have often been dubbed as the kings of the road. Well, this time around, it didn't look that way at all. Jeepney drivers could probably bully private vehicle owners or even bus drivers. But with these motorbike riders, it's like taking on a hornet's nest.

This got me into thinking: really interesting how the state's actions can create identities by merely recognizing people's entitlements and rights. Give them something to fight for, not just demand for. The new identities of course come with the assertion and the demanding, and the link between policy and identity-creation is not automatic. Some laws have come and gone into oblivion without making a dent in society's identity structure. People need to be aware, and to find their voice before they gain such new identities as right-bearers. From that point on, there has to be another cycle of consciousness-raising and taking some concrete actions before they feel the power within themselves. With prices of fossil fuels continuing to rise, motorbikes are fast becoming an economical and efficient mode of transportation along major roads and thoroughfares in Manila and other urban centers within the developing world.

And motorcycle riders a new force to reckon with.

(many thanks to the MMDA website for the picture)

1 comment:

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