Terrorism doesn’t work. That’s the message we keep getting from the nightly news and from action films and TV shows. But you know what? That message is a load of crap. Fear is a great motivator and selling tool and it has been used just as often by governments and law enforcement agencies as it has been by groups looking to overthrow the establishment.
The Nationalist Party used it effectively to hold onto power in South Africa for nearly 50 years, Winston Churchill used it to control Ireland and the Yanks and Brits use it today to justify their massive defence budgets. Fear got George Bush re-elected and it makes a fortune for defence contractors and airport security companies.
Ah; that felt good. As some of you may have noticed I love to waffle on about the evil effects of what World War II allied chief of staff and former US president General Dwight D. Eisenhower called the military industrial complex.
But what brought on today’s ranting? Well, I just received two letters from the local traffic cops telling me that, six days apart, the same concealed camera recorded me exceeding the speed limit and that I now owe the city of Birmingham a fair bit of money.
Okay, I accept that driving is a privilege, not a right, and that most of the laws were designed to make the roads safer for drivers, passengers and pedestrians alike but the fact
that the letters were posted on the same day really pisses me off. I mean what’s the point here, safety or making money? If the first notice had been sent earlier I might have avoided the second ticket as fear of having to pay another fine and getting more points on my driver’s licence would have kicked in.
Anyway, I now drive that section of road at the prescribed speed because I’m afraid of getting caught again, not because I think it would be unsafe to drive 20kph faster. Actually, I believe the speed limits were set before the advent of power steering, power brakes and high tech suspensions and that I would be a safer driver if I didn’t need to glance at the speedometer at regular intervals to make sure I was going slowly enough to be legal. So there you go, ruling by fear really does work.
Or more to the point it works to control people in the short run… and that’s why I’m sharing these thoughts with you today. I don’t really think anyone in southern Africa should be interested in my English traffic hassles except that they highlight two of the things I love most about living in Botswana: freedom and the need to take responsibility for oneself.
Sure the Botswana traffic cops hide behind trees and set up traps to nail speeders as they fly over crests in the road but, like I said, driving is a privilege and generally speaking the population isn’t forced to behave well.
Over here the cameras are everywhere – on the highways, on city streets in the parks – so the population doesn’t need to develop its own sense of right and wrong… and I just don’t see that a social progress or something that should be imitated.