by Reid Fitzsimons
The worldwide annual rate of motor vehicle related deaths is apparently 17.4 per 100,000. The highest rate is in Africa at 26.6, Honduras at 17.4, and the US at 10.6 per 100,000. In general, and the reasons are numerous, there is a higher rate in so-called third world countries than in the “first world.”
So what does this have to do with anything? I know Honduras very well, and can state unequivocally that it is common and typical for any number of people to hop in the back of pick-up trucks and go barreling down the pothole laden two-lane corridors of death which is their national highway system. I’ve done it myself enough times and it is probably one of the worst practices in regards to vehicular safety, but no one bats an eye, including the cops. It is, however, illegal in Honduras to drive while smoking, using a cell phone, and to not wear a seatbelt. For those who know the New Testament this might bring to mind the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:3, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
I am, of course, not privy to the legislative machinations of governments that are perpetual recipients of foreign aid but have a theory when it comes to laws that concentrate on a speck of dust but ignore the gaping eye wound. Somewhere in the comfort of the US or European Union there are politicians or non-profit progressive special interest groups who can’t imagine the entire world doesn’t share their concerns and values, anti-smoking activists for example (what enlightened person doesn’t want to have a group for whom they can show contempt?). While somewhere there is perhaps a legitimate goal of improving health, their focus becomes the means, not the result, and even the most oblique attack on their target is justified. Hence, a well-funded organization can perhaps influence the pertinent foreign policy people and say, “It would be a righteous thing if we could demand other countries pass anti-smoking laws.” Attach a little bit of foreign aid, ostensibly to help enact the law and, Que Bueno, the money goes into some corrupt politicians pocket and there is an essentially meaningless new law just waiting to be broken.
There is a silly term that affords a certain amount status in the echelons of diversity think: Global Citizen. This is a person who has traveled to far away places and can tell stories of exotic peoples and cultures. In reality it pertains to a college educated privileged first-worlder who has the money and time to travel or the ex-patriot who lives in poor country because it’s a place they can afford the gated community life along with servants. This contrasts with the person who has actually lived and routinely interacted with the people and culture of a distant place and knows there is both good and a bad. In other words, a person who knows that, with exceptions, third-world police are notoriously corrupt and view the law as a means to extort. Of course, the more laws, the more opportunity to extract bribes.
The typical scenario is a cop sees one of these nuisance laws being broken, approaches the offender, and tells them, “You have to go to the station.” The poor wretch knows they were caught talking on the cell phone while stuck in a traffic jam and knows if they “go to the station” there will be a stiff fine (the judge needs to get his or her cut), perhaps a night in a filthy cell, and even a whoopin. There is an alternative presented, however, when the nice policeman says, “Give me 500 Lempiras (in Honduras) or 50,000 Shillings (in Uganda)- $20 to $25 US- and you can go.” Usually the cop starts high and the poor schmuck can talk them down a little, but it’s the system, all the time and day after day. Meanwhile the special interest group holds a self-congratulatory fundraiser in New York gushing about their wonderful success.
Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday I spent some time with a very decent and pretty accomplished guy who is a lifelong leftist. In his younger years, consistent with the progressive mindset and behavior, he would at the most inappropriate times bring up controversial political issues, then slam down the phone or storm out of a room if he didn’t find agreement. Fortunately he matured as he grew older, but these are trying times for leftists and I wasn’t with him for 10 minutes before he referred to that “madman in the White House.” Being no knee-jerk defender of Trump’s often inexplicable behavior, I just nodded and changed the subject.
Overall I had quite an enjoyable visit. The next day I hung around longer that my schedule allowed, continuing our reminiscence. At some point he mentioned an Asian friend (not sure if he’s a US citizen or legal immigrant) who had traveled somewhere in Southeast Asia and underwent the typical police shakedown at the airport, observing that white travelers were left alone. I told him of my recent shakedown by none other than the anti-terrorist police just moments after I stepped outside the international airport building in Entebbe, Uganda. Normally international airports in third-world countries should be relatively police corruption free zones, and I speculated that one might be able to gauge the degree of political corruption in a given country if they are willing extort white people in such locations, Uganda being exceptionally corrupt.
Upon mishearing this, my poor leftist life-long acquaintance was overcome with a zealous fervor, just like the old days, and spat out, “You think it’s okay for the police (note we are talking about “people of color” themselves) to shake down minorities but not white people!!” Fortunately he quickly realized the absurdity of his reaction- that I was in no way condoning this practice- and his righteous indignation passed.
A lifetime of observing such things has led me to the conclusion that leftists/progressives are more inclined than others to respond to perceived injustices with great emotion, most notably rage and indignation. In general this is okay I guess, but emotion doesn’t ameliorate the injustice, doesn’t right the wrong. In deference to the person I was visiting, he’s mature enough now to not regard the most trivial and often unintended slights as the gravest of transgressions, which sadly seems to be pretty much the normal practice these days. His reaction reminded me, however, that a leftist, in experiencing a sense of outrage at the oppression of the downtrodden or whatever, receives an almost religious sense of sanctification (noting the person I visited is an avowed atheist): my indignation alone proves that I am a good person, and the fact that you are not expressing outrage as intensely as me demonstrates that I am a better person than you. And, of course, feeling righteous anger is all that is necessary; there is no need to otherwise do anything that gets in the way of our privileged middle-class existences. For the leftist, feeling is all that matters.