In Jakarta, if you ride your motorcycle along footpaths, get on lifts before folk are able to get off, plonk your three-year old on the bus seat next to you rather than allowing the pregnant woman in front of you to occupy it, and are a queue jumper, then you are a conformist.
A conformist is someone who has a herd mentality who blindly copies everyone else. Unfortunately, in Jakarta, conformists follow rules of egocentricity with little regard for the common good. This is because rules are rarely ‘socialised’ and the rule makers are also the rule breakers.
And who sets these rules?
The politicians and civil servants are supposed to safeguard the welfare of taxpayers and electorate within a legal framework. But few politicians have regard for the long-term because they have an election to win with false promises every four or five years, and the bureaucrats have their pensions (and brown envelopes) to safeguard. Both lack minimal moral rectitude or a sense of civic responsibility.
Successive governors fail to map a recognisable vision for the future so we are all encouraged to think for the present. The last governor demonstrated this when he inaugurated the monthly car-free day by rolling up in his official limo with an escort. (The resultant gridlock in the surrounding streets made many motorists very angry.)
So, what do we want?
There is a dichotomy between organised chaos and benevolent dictatorship. In city terms, we can see this played out in the current mayoral election campaign in London.
I wholeheartedly agree with incumbent Ken Livingstone when he says, “If I were running the country, tomorrow I’d ban plastic bags, I’d ban incandescent light bulbs. I’m quite prepared to have a nanny state if it means we survive. I’d rather have a nanny state and live than we all burn in some catastrophic climate change disaster.”
Maybe once Red, now Green, Ken has his vision of a green city based on Freiberg, a utopian metropolis run with teutonic efficiency.
But in Ken’s London Big Brother is watching you and that scares the hell of of me.
CCTV may catch terrorists, robbers and vandals – after the events, but the fear of being caught will only discourage creativity. On the way up to Pasar Ular (Snake Market), near the dock area of Tanjung Priok) on Friday – we wanted to buy a backpack which had fallen off the back of a ship – we noted that graffiti artists has been commissioned to decorate the pillars supporting the elevated toll road above us. Their work appeared to have been designed by a committee or Bill Posters: each pillar showed a car in a street scene.
Three years ago I commented that my favourite word was BUTTERCUP, which, in the late sixties, was painted in metre-high letters on the garden wall of a corner house in Tufnel Park, London. I passed here on my way to work and always thought that it was a pleasant word to greet the day.
Today, Alex Clark ponders the meaning of MESSY MAGNOLIA.
It took me aback, I must say. I stood and contemplated it further. Of course, it seemed at first like a complaint, and it might be: somebody just driven into a rage by all those damn petals cluttering up the thoroughfare, far more unsightly than the drifts of greasy chicken-boxes and errant free-sheets and fag packets; somebody who wanted to make it clear that those flowers had better be cleaned up by the time I get home or there’ll be trouble – we all have to live here.
Then I wondered whether it was a communication from the magnolia owners themselves – a sort of hands in the air, it’s a fair cop, we know, we’re sorry, what can we do about it, glue them on? If so, it seemed an unnecessarily self-flagellating apology.
Five years ago a website was developed offering citizens a choice:
If you think that capitalism works as a system, but tends to bring out the worst in people if left unchecked, then choose humanity.
If you think that capitalism and globalisation has led to the almost total decay of democracy and that a solid kick up the Khyber Pass, then choose anarchy.
Aah – decisions, decisions.
I certainly don’t choose conformity, so why is this blog rated Suitable For General Audiences?
What am I doing wrong?
Spare a thought for the Tibetans who don’t want Chinese conformity.
Spare a thought for the lady stuck on a toilet for two years.
Should moral turpitude be grounds for being barred from the USA?