I decided to cycle to the supermarket for my groceries today, instead of taking out the motorcycle. the weather seems to have improved a bit, and there wasn't much traffic. at a traffic light, a waiting rickshaw driver decided to relieve his mouth of its contents and spew paan on the sidewalk. disgusting.
this time though, I wasn't the only disgusted person around. a motorcyclist and another cyclist joined me in giving the rickshaw driver disgusted stares. he eventually noticed, but he somehow seemed to have a problem understanding exactly what we were disgusted about. he literally asked the motorcyclist "what happened? what did I do?"
the traffic resumed moving before I could hear the rest of the exchange, but it got me thinking: wouldn't the world be a much better place if people were more aware of the consequences of their actions?
as I watched a swarm of vehicles (almost comically) jump the signal *after* an ambulance, it reinforced my thoughts. if information was more widely available and supplied more easily, we probably could have far fewer social problems. and once there is a critical mass of informed people, the rest would be forced to keep up, or look stupid. and I parked my bicycle, lost in thought: how many things could be improved with proper information? would people be lining up to buy sugary cola, or cheap snacks fried in hydrogenated vegetable oil, or food loaded with sodium and msg? would they be taking the stairs instead of the escalators?
as I unlocked my bicycle and wore my still sweaty helmet, I noticed that the SUV that was parked next to it still had the windows up and engine idling from an hour ago, with the driver napping in his seat. I felt rather silly, trying to save the atmosphere from an ounce of burned petrol which the car probably guzzled many times over while I did my purchases.
and that's when it hit me: knowledge and information are not the game changers I seek. what we need is more people who think. people who think about the bigger picture, of cause and effect. after all, information is already out there for those who seek it. it may not be well presented, and may sometimes be hidden in clear sight and otherwise buried behind commercial interests, but it's still there. it's there only for people who care.
we live in a world filled with oblivious people, people who discard information if it doesn't help them achieve their immediate goals, and sometimes even if it does. and the only way to change that is to encourage critical thought.
and that's the game changer.
so the question is, how do we get people to think?
I rode home, lost in thought again, while a helmetless biker who was riding on the wrong side of a clear road sneered at me for cycling with a helmet.
I'm still nowhere near the answer.
but the answer, I'm assured, will change the course of the human race.