Kaieteur News – Is it that Guyanese have low self-confidence and is that why more than 10 of them would sit in a speeding minibus, placing their lives at risk and not utter a single syllable demanding that the driver step off the accelerator?
No, I do not believe it is a matter of low self-esteem, which sees Guyanese sit silently in the presence of danger to their lives. The real explanation has to do with the fact that many of us have not yet acquired that level of assertiveness, which could save so many lives from being lost on our roadways because of accidents involving speeding vehicles.
While the problem is not low esteem, I believe it is directly related to a complex that we have developed and passed on to our children regarding those that provide services to us. That complex is one that sees the person providing that service as being in a superior position and therefore we feel inferior and dependent on that person and are thus reluctant to assert our rights.
We have come to see those who provide services to us, services that ironically we pay for, as doing us a favour, that there was a time in this country when some young women used to go crazy for minibus drivers and conductors.
It was a big thing to have a boyfriend who was a minibus driver and many a young lady could be found boasting, “My man is a minibus driver.” It is not that these girls thought so low of themselves that they worshiped these transportation providers. Rather, it is they thought – and many still do— highly of these guys especially those with the ‘ready rides’ who drive as if they wish to be the successors of Evil Knievel.
This complex has its roots in the food crisis that afflicted Guyana in the seventies and the eighties when Guyanese used to have to stand in line for hours on end for basic commodities.
In those days when an item was short and was being rationed, which was most of the time, persons would have to make some purchases at state-owned or operated outlets and then depend on the generosity of the cashier to decide whether how much of the scarce item you would get.
If you were leaving Guyana on a holiday in those days, you required a tax exit certificate. When you went to apply and uplift this from the tax agency, you had better be respectful or else your file could be pulled and you could be denied an exit certificate. Here again the public was intimidated by those providing this service.
It was the same in many other areas of life including when a traffic cop stopped you on the roadway. If you did not have your licence with you, you could bet that nine times out of 10 you would not be allowed time to present this. You faced the possibility of being issued a ticket for not having your licence on your person.
In the private sphere it was the same. Flights out of Guyana were limited but if you had the contact in the travel agency, you stood a chance. In the markets, you needed to be on good terms with whomever you made your purchases from so that the person would keep some of the scare item for you, even if you were paying an inflated price for the item. So over time we developed in Guyana an esteemed opinion of those providing services for us.
When, for example, we went to the butcher shop and the man gave us 50 per cent of the weight in bones, we could not complain because the next week he could refuse to sell us and that would mean that we would have to do without. In hard times this was not an opinion many people liked.
Today things have changed, competition is increased and customers do not have to accept substandard products. They can dictate what they want.
However, this same approach is taking time to filter down to other areas such as the transportation sector.
This is why when three persons are already sitting in a seat in a minibus which caters for three and the conductors demand that a fourth be accommodated, it is not out of sympathy that most persons comply, it is simply because they feel that they cannot assert their rights to refuse because they feel that it is his bus and that he can put them out. The only recourse people have is to cite COVID guidelines, and though most drivers are complying, this is not universal.
Public commuters fail to insist that they are paying for a service and that this service places them in the superior position whereby they should insist on comfort and safety, rather than accepting whatever is done to them.
The problem of deaths on our roadways is not going to be changed by placing more traffic cops on the roadways or undertaking increased road traffic campaigns.
This problem will only be brought under control when all commuters who have to use public transport assert themselves and demand better because they are paying for it. No minibus driver is doing anyone a favour. Those who travel by public transport are paying for a service and they should insist when they see a vehicle speeding that the driver slow down.
Unless we can have this change in thinking, we will not end the terrible carnage on our roadways. You cannot heal the body without healing the mind.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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