I am trying to decide whether I like anarchy – please help

Travelling for a month on the roads of India and Nepal gave me a good taste of anarchy – and I found it rather nice. Nobody obeys rules. Outside Delhi there are hardly any traffic lights or traffic police. Motor cycles roar out of side streets right in front of your bonnet. The driver has a wife in a sari on the back, with two children wedged in between and a third up against the handlebars. Crash helmets? Don’t ask.

In conglomerations, traffic is a slow-moving snarl. It seems like gridlock, but when a chink appears, at least three vehicles, small and large, hurl themselves towards it. The rule of anarchy says the first one in is right. The others give way gracefully, waiting for anarchy to offer them a new chance, which it does. There are scarcely any collisions. Pedestrians develop great skills in hopping, skipping and dashing. They too go where they like.

On four-lane highways, you meet donkeys, cyclists, steam-rollers and 40-ton juggernauts proceeding the wrong way down the carriage-way. If it’s a bit shorter to the next turning that way, why let any highway code deter you?

There is no road rage, unlike in the ordered societies of western Europe. Hooting is good-tempered – it just announces you are competing for a space. If you all break the rules, why complain? Anarchy offers a certain serenity.

Mind you, there are challenges. Our Indian driver found himself on the wrong side of a road as a juggernaut surged at us round a bend, also on the wrong side. Both were overtaking, and the near sides were occupied by slower vehicles. In the middle was a vast pothole all were determined to avoid. Tricky, but nothing to get shaken up about, and I live to tell the tale.

The pleasures of anarchy did begin to pale after a bit however. Behind the spirit of “anything goes”is a selfish indifference to the interests of others. Everybody is taken up with individual concerns, and makes no effort to consider others. There are no synergies from cooperation, since nobody places faith in it. Influenced by a belief that the cosmic order is permanent, few people aspire to change things.

Thus, traffic never moves fast. On the national scale, India’s economic growth is slowing and reforms have largely ground to a halt. Nepal is in disorder. Inertia and low expectations slowly restore the hold they established over people in primitive times. That is the price to pay for anarchy. Not so sure I like it any more.

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4 Responses to “I am trying to decide whether I like anarchy – please help”

  1. Alex Nicoll Says:

    Marcus, your description and your ‘after a bit’ thoughts evoke my own reactions while living in Delhi in the 1990s. Best, Alex

  2. AlisaG Says:

    Perfect description of the flow of things over there, both good and bad. The traffic is a thing to behold, isn’t it? A society without personal space issues. : )

  3. byrdwords Says:

    Marcus, wonderful post. I’ve heard a definition of anarchy as a state where everyone, of their own volition, lives productive and responsible lives. From that idealist standpoint, I find that easy to agree with. The problem I suppose is the human animal, that turns it into chaos. Pardon the waxing poetic, it was just a pleasure to see a post from you. Thanks, Bob

  4. mferrar Says:

    Bob, I was in Geneva presenting my new book A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: A GERMAN PAST FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE to GWG. People were asking for news of you. What are you up to? Drop a line to marcus@ferrar.org.uk please! Marcus

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