What constitutes selfishness? The desire for every scenario to turn out completely in one's favour? Surely not, call me selfish but I'm pretty steadfast in my hope that everything in my life is going to be chill, from now, until forever without exception... no no, selfishness must be a much more fiendish attribute to deserve it's terrible reputation. Maybe selfishness is the willingness to act upon that desire, which I'm sure we all possess? To be willing and ready to act upon it to the detriment of others around you... that seems to be a pretty fair definition of selfishness right? The guy at the supermarket who stands in the express line with 13 items, the piece of shit who pushes past you to get out of the train first, the fat fuck standing with his armpits in your face on the commute to work... all pretty straightforward examples of selfish behaviours, exhibited by the stupid pieces of shit that we, as humans, are forced into contact with every day. How about another?
On Monday I painfully ripped myself away from my velcro bed at probably something like 9am and headed off to the inter-city bus station to do some price matching on tickets for my upcoming trip to Chile. Nice day, sun, 9am traffic, plenty of buses going my way and things were cruisy. My trip was cut short about fifteen minutes in when I realised with a jolt that fifteen minutes had gone by and I was still stuck in gridlock; “this trip normally takes five or ten at most.” Thoughts of a doomed morning. Turns out there was a road block a few streets up and no one was looking like moving today.
One thing about Bolivia folks, is that it's not a place where predictions should be thrown around willy nilly. In the immortal words of Cypress Hill, “when the shit goes down, you better be ready” - wiser words are seldom spoken. When the shit goes down in Bolivia, and go down it frequently does, I've learnt that the best response is to just tread around the edges and go about my dailies in the least intrusive way possible; stay away from the shit, and it generally goes away. So I got out of my bus and walked the last kilometre or so to the terminal where I jotted some prices and, of course, couldn't buy them because I'd left my passport and money at home like the prepared, forward thinking individual that I am. Tomorrow would, I assumed, be another day though, and tomorrow, discounting an especially devious planetary alignment, there would be no road blocks.
Just to explain, people in Bolivia think of civil disobedience in their sleepy Castellano minds they don't think of organised strikes, unionism and peaceful protest; they think of dragging stones from the sidewalk and dropping them in the middle of the streets. They think of fireworks and small, colourful explosives and blocking traffic and disrupting city life and maybe hurting a few people in a small scale riot. I guess it's not their fault, that's just what the score is over here so who am I to judge?
The protesters, whatever they were protesting, (I think heard TIPNIS so most probably environmental issues, for those of you playing at home) were exercising their rights to free speech and association in their country to voice their opinions against government action... cool. Do what you want guys but maybe don't block the fucking roads downtown in the middle of the day... right? The selfish pigs! Well maybe not, when it comes to options for legitimate political action in this and other patchwork states, these guys have about sweet F.A. at their disposal. Giving up one or two days' convenient transport to the centres of activity and resigning oneself to a disgustingly healthy walk doesn't seem such a bad option when your country is staring down the barrel of an environmental face-fucking. They don't want the rainforest to be bulldozed to make way for cocoa plantations, I can settle with that.
Well I could on the first day, but day two opened up much the same as day one did, only I was approaching the terminal by private taxi this time in a feeble attempt to dodge traffic on the main routes. The journey actually took longer this time, although my hope was that the blockade had been thinned out a little on the second day. (every other time this has happened since I've been here there hasn't even been a day two) No such luck Tugzy, the protesters were sat in the same spots as they had been the day before, protesting the same things, and making my brain short the same fuses in exasperated rage. “Hijo de puta! Can't they just like picket from the sidewalks or like petition their local member of government or something, this would never happen in my country.” Well that's just the point I guess, this isn't my country. This is Bolivia, where the free run wild. Sadly, in countries like this the only options for protest open to the population are disruptive and near-violent. The government has chosen to openly disregard the voice of the stifled masses on issue after issue for so long that it has become the norm. These people know that the only way to get anything done around here is to fuck with someone's shit, maybe they weren't aiming for me specifically, but the people like me, the people who are liable to get really pissed off by stuff like this, they are the people who make the decisions around here. The privileged.
I, for one, am just happy that I live in a developed, western democratic nation. A nation where we have the full right to vote for a wide range of political candidates and parties who hold legitimately differing views with varying degrees of centrality or extremity and the population is not only enabled, but willing to engage itself in the political... wait a... uuuuh?
Ok... I got to the station and bought my tickets for Chile, as was mission on the second day, after having price checked the first day and gone home for a day's rest before retrieving my passport and... well something makes me think that the ordeal was a little unnecessary but HEY! it got me out of the house. How about those damn protesters though, am I right? Couldn't they be content with a nice, non-disruptive, peaceful protest like in the civilised nations of the west? Why be so welfish as to fuck with my shit just because you're pissed off about something? It's not my fault.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is a perfect example of the complacent and apathetic attitude that has infected our once proud western democracies. Standardised cigarette packaging? A national internet filter? A 'man' who openly denies two decades of scientific consensus about climate change could very possibly be our next Prime Minister and the majority of us, we, the young, energised generation don't give a FUCK. Across the sea SOPA, PIPA and all manner of other deliberately indecipherable acronyms threaten to destroy our personal liberties on a global scale and it takes Wikipedia thrusting a banner of warning in the English-speaking world's face for anyone to fucking notice... Maybe we could learn something valuable from these Bolivians?
It really messed with me to have some of the most important roads in the city rendered useless by blockades for two days; I have never seen anything like that be allowed to occur in my life. The flash of rage that I felt when I walked past their primitive road block was just that; a flash. A quick, selfish reaction to the situation at hand – “I don't want to walk to the bus stop! Why should I have to there is a perfectly good road there, SCREW THESE PEOPLE!” Just temporary, but a sign of the sense of entitlement that our self-centred society has instilled in my brain. Those road blocks were obviously necessary and got my attention for sure, as well as the attention of basically any of the one million inhabitants of Cochabamba who left their houses on the 17th or 18th of January 2012. For our system of government at home to continue to function in anything close to the way that we believe it should be – the population's interests being fairly represented by our elected politicians – maybe we need to mobilise like the native Bolivians did a few days ago. Things may get worse before they get better, but at least we can be sure that if voices are being heard, then things are going to get better – right now, no one is listening. No one gives a fuck about your 'peace march' or 'freedom rally' or three guys with megaphones standing in front of a statue shouting slogans; people only care about shit that affects THEM, personally. That's the situation we have created for ourselves, now we have to deal with it.
Either that or we will continue down this apathetic slide into default totalitarianism while our heads hum with anti-depressants and we all stare at eachother mildly, droning, “well at least we still have our... the... all the stuff that we have in... over here and stuff.”
Take the drugs, drink the stuff, eat the magic powder. Get back to work.
Look forward to it guys.
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