Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Keep Right

As I stood on the escalator going down to the Bond St. subway station, I got a tap on my shoulder and heard a voice behind me "move please?". I instinctively moved from the side I was on to the other side, which was the right side of the escalator steps. And the man who tapped me swiftly descended down the steps, passing a few people until he stopped behind an asian lady who stood in the same way I was standing, which is on the left side of the steps, while her friend was on her right. He repeated the same mumble to her and she also walked down one step to stand infront of her friend as the man continued his hurried descent.

As he went down I looked back and saw that the man had cut a clear path on the left side of the escalator from the top all the way down to the bottom. And a few people were using this path to walk down the escalator swiftly and efficiently, saving a few moments of time on the hopes of catching the train right before its doors shut, or maybe feeling that atleast this way they get SOME exercise. After all by looking at the other escalator going up, it was much clearer how the number of people walking up was much less than the people walking down. People going up preferred to stand still instead.

And then I noticed the sign in the middle between the two escalators repeating every few feet.

Stand on the Right
No Smoking

And that made sense how it was mostly new tourists like me and that asian lady who were ignorant about this directive to stand always on the right hand side of the escalator steps.

This was interesting to me for two main reasons:
1- it was an individual instruction. aimed at one person. the reader.
2- it achieved a system where people in a hurry could walk up/down the stairs unimpeded, while lazier folk like me could stand comfortably without acting like a road block.

It didn't say "Clear the way for walkers" for example. If you say something like that to a 100 people riding an escalator they would all appreciate what you're trying to achieve, but would be confused on how to do it.

So the solution was to give each individual a simple thing to do.. and also, the key was to have the SAME instruction given to ALL the people involved.

This is pure Conformity.

The sign "Keep Right" is basically the LAW from above. And if "most" people follow it then a "good" thing happens.

If however most people prefer to be individualistic and choose to disobey and stand however the HELL they like, on the right, on the left, spread their legs wide and raise their arms in a big human X shape (to show rebellion against the corrupt bankers no doubt), then for sure the 1 minute which they spend on the escalator trip will be a more satisfying and free experience for them.

But the healthy person wanting to walk up or down the escalator and not just stand there will have to tap alot more shoulders than just mine and the asian lady's.

Conformity is generally viewed in a negative way in the post WW2 era of revolutions and libertarian movements.

Yet, sometimes it has its value to make our lives easier. If we all wear the same clothes then clothes will become alot cheaper, and we could maybe make more of them. If we drive the same cars we'll have cheaper cars. And so on.

On the flip side Conformity kills Diversity. And we need to have diverse options when we don't yet know which specific Amino acid secreted by which deep sea bacteria is going to be the next super anti-biotic as the life-span of Penicillin draws to an end. Or which will kill Cancer cells.

So we need both at different times. Which LAWs to conform to however?

Keeping Right can be evidently beneficial in a very short time. But other Laws take longer for their effects to be felt for good or bad.

It was generally accepted that taking interest on loans is not only ok.. but an economic necessity. If you don't allow it then stagnation of the economy is assured.

Yet now they are so scared of the economic meltdown of mountains upon mountains of global debt, BBC economists predict the worst is yet to come. And that no real change of the LAWs has been effected. They say that all that has been done was similar to giving a heroin addict who was having a cardiac arrest, a dose of more heroin to let the emergency pass.

The US can't keep buying Chinese stuff on loan anymore. And all that happened was that the addiction was allowed to continue a little longer using federal money. It is nothing more than borrowed time.

The only good sign of recovery is ordinary people getting profoundly scared and starting to be thrifty and saving more.

But the practices which get us in this mess every 20 years haven't changed. And the lesson learned will be only temporary in our recent memory. Until the next generation takes over and repeats the mistakes.

In this case, we think the current LAW is ok, and good, and it works. but we can't see its consequences coming 20 years later.

Where did we get this LAW from? from people who are able to predict no more than 5 years into their own futures. at best.

What if I say that Allah, our almighty God and creator gave us a different LAW. saying that we should NOT take interest on loans.

It's an individual instruction like "Keeping Right". And we are not far-sighted enough to see what good it will do to us.

I for one take it on faith that its a good practice.

We'll see inshalla


FourMe said...

Its Underground etiquette to stay to the right.. If you don't do so you're either a tourist or a troublemaker.. I get pissed off when ppl stand on the left as I always like to be moving and not stand around alf sena lain o9al..

Actually its more like English escalator etiquette.. just observes escalators everywhere in the UK and you'll see the same system is applicable..

falantan said...

Yes fourme. I'm pondering on how useful this etiquette can be.

that order, even absolute order, even if boring can be beneficial.

and good to see you again here ^^

Tarek Jammal said...

One of your best posts to date :)

falantan said...

Glad you enjoyed it, Hitter Cameller!

Tarek Jammal said...

Ahem... It's Knocker Cameller... respect

brown-suger said...

oh i know that rule when i was in malaysia.. they took it seriously.. and i didnt pay attention just like u.. but then i noticed i was the only one standing in the middle.. so i stepped aside..
as for the banks.. i honestly dont know whats gonna happen.. i hope they have learned their lesson.. as for me.. i know for a fact.. that i never ever buy anything unless i have its full amout,. =) i'll try keeping right..
but if nothing goes right.. might as well go left lol

falantan said...

brown-suger: kafo walla. a7sallech.

however, just to mention it.. buying something in installments (even if its a bigger amount than the cash) is not Riba according to majority of islamic scholars.

but some installment financiers act as loaners and that's Riba. basically as long as you pay the installments to the seller and in a fixed (non-variable) rate, you should be ok.

But like you I steer clear of those too to be safe.

brown-suger said...

;-) better safe than sorry eh?