Dim the Lights

Baja-las-LucesBy: Gregorio Etcheverry

When I was a child it always struck me that my father turned up the headlights to oncoming cars when, hidden in the bushes, a police patrol was waiting with pistol in hand, watching who drove more than 100 km/h. Giving signals was the way to warn other cars, so they would know and slow down because the police could take a chunk of them. Very chivalrously, they responded with a change of lights, thanking with this gesture my dad and his ‘civic friendship’, so to speak. I also remember as a small boy going to the Santa Laura Stadium to see ‘The U’ (University of Chile Football Club) and we had to queue to buy tickets. There always appeared a “little fella,” approaching you humbly to ask you buying him a ticket, or at least let him advance in the queue. Many times that would work and they found a “yokel” fan that did them the favor. Another memory I have is about school exams. I had two fellow students with certain “attention deficit” that prevented them from studying and digest the material. Their solution was sitting behind “brainy Manriquez”, for he always passed them the answers. I don’t think he did it because he wanted to help, but because he was afraid not to do so. The repudiation of the class, a potential “camotera” (pads on the head), or being seen bad guy, prevented him from refusing. In addition, the Sunday afternoon TV picture of an opportunistic suck-up that at that time appeared was quite questionable, to say the least. Behind these three memories of ‘civic friendship’ that most of us have been a part of, either as perpetrators, witnesses, accomplices or accessories after the fact, I believe to have found one of the reasons that has fostered this cliché of which we are proud—the “Chilean rascality” (which right now is a tremendous justification for slack going around here). Why continue “give clothing” to those who don’t do things as they should be? To be good? For fear of falling out of favor? To have a good time and not become a pain in the neck? Lately, I have found some signs that some of these things have been changing. If Transantiago has had something to their rescue it is one of their latest advertising campaigns, seeking that passengers, despite poor service, don’t forgive those seeking a free pass. Heyyyyyyyy don’t interfere…!!! Thanks to the invention of “citizen news” I have seen with pleasure passengers being thrown out of a bus—by passengers – for not paying their ticket… Another thing I have observed with pleasure was how a group of pedestrians put a pickpocket to the ground who had been caught red-handed as he tried stealing a wallet from a lady. A few days ago, I could see pedestrians taking photos of cars in the streets that went out although their number plates indicated they were under restriction, due to environmental pre-emergency. And others confronting neighbors over them having lit fireplaces despite prohibition. The invitation is to stop doing & % & / $% & and begin to do away with this misunderstood ‘civic friendship’. Unfortunately, to do so one has to have courage, which not all of us have. To make the change more smoothly, let us start with something simple: I don’t turn up the headlights for oncoming traffic. And you – wanna try me?