Thursday, 14 January 2010

Snow and human nature - a microcosm of the real world?

Driving home recently I decided to take a different route to avoid a long traffic queue which was building up due to the snow and icy conditions.

Unfortunately, this different route turned out to be a bad idea as I quickly found myself joining another long queue of motorists who had had the same idea as me. This situation was worsened by the fact that the road narrowed in one section, so that only one line of traffic could pass through at any given time.

Stuck in a queue not moving I observed the unfolding events. The first was a rather angry middle aged man stomping past the queue of cars berating drivers of two-wheel drive cars – complaining that he was stuck behind them and that it was their fault he couldn’t get moving.

Next, the driver of another four-wheel drive vehicle, clearly frustrated at having to wait decided to mount the pavement and attempt to manoeuvre around the blockage before himself becoming trapped.

Eventually the traffic began moving again before reaching an incline. This time several cars began sliding around frantically as they tried to ascend the incline. Inevitably some became stuck. Two four-wheel drive cars weaved in between the stranded cars at some speed before racing off without offering assistance. Another driver of a four-wheel drive vehicle stopped and offered help to several motorists.

In front of me was a young driver with the sense to wait at the bottom of the incline until the stranded cars managed to get moving, some being pushed by passers by and other drivers. Behind me was an irate driver of a 4x4 who began hooting his horn, and gesturing at the young driver to get out of his way. As the intimidated young woman driver began moving, the 4x4 driver sped past with horn full on, weaving his way through and sped off. The 4x4 driver was quickly joined by a two-wheel drive car driver who tried to jump the queue before himself becoming stranded on the hill, blocking other cars in the process.

After helping to push several cars I was myself helped past the incline, and managed to get safely home albeit somewhat frazzled.

On reflection, I couldn’t help but wonder if this wasn’t simply an expression of human nature in a wider context. At one extreme, selfish individuals who care little about the well-being of others; at the other end of the scale altruistic people who volunteer to help even when there is no direct benefit to themselves. Stereotyping can be dangerous, but I find it hard to accept that those people who acted selfishly in this situation would be the type of people concerned about climate change, fair trade and ethics. Which made me wonder – how many of these people are there out there?

Dr. Gary Robertshaw
The Green Providers Directory
January 2010

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