I lived in communism for 19 years. It was an interesting time. Seeing it from now makes it a little bit different, as in a lesson we had to learn, but at that time, being there and living it was pretty nasty.
One of the things that were pretty common during communism was poverty. The vast majority of people was poor. And poverty created some of the most unbelievable behaviors in human beings.
For instance, in order to make money, the Police started to put cars with radar control devices in the most unexpected places. The reason was not to make you slow down while you were driving, but to actually “get you”. The radar control cars were actually hidden behind the trees, placed right after a road curve or behind other similar cars on the side road. EverythingÂ they could do in order toÂ disguise the presence of that car.
No wonder it was very easy to get caught for speeding. In fact, radar controls cars were almost part of the roads in communism. And you know why? It wasn’t the ticket they were supposed to give you, but the bribe the policemen expected. The real reason was not a more fluid and secure traffic, but pocket money for the policemen, who, as everyone else, were poor. Only they had a little bit of tolls to create some pressure. The ticket was really high and nobody risked trouble with the authorities, so they were giving a small bribe and they were free to go. During those times, being caught by the radar control car and bribing the policemen in order to avoid a ticket was normal.
But, you know, even in the worst conditions, people have this ability to adapt. When there is a constraint, and that constraint is really bad – and avoiding the radar control cars was pretty important for every driver – usually you find a way around it. Introducing flashes.
Every time a driver spotted a radar car, after he passed it, started to flash for the drivers coming from the other side of the road. Like this, they were warned. They knew that in a few hundreds of meters, or even kilometers, there was some police car waiting. And they slowed down. Flashing was a fantastic communication tool. It was almost a code. Nobody, even communism, couldn’t do anything against it.
Although the Police knew that all drivers are signaling to each other, they had no way to stop it. So, when they placed a radar car, they wouldn’t keep it in the same place for more than half an hour. And only the first drivers were caught. After a half an hour, for dozens of kilometers behind and ahead the radar car location, every drivers was already warned. So, they have to move to a new location. That was one of the reasons they were so present, they have to move from place to place because they were busted so fast.
Times changed. 20 years ago communism was replaced by a – more or less savage – capitalism. People started to earn more. Differences appeared. In communism everybody had the same type of car. In capitalism people started to have faster and more powerful cars. But the roads remained the same, narrow and filled with holes.
And another interesting thing happened. The guys with faster cars needed more space. If you had a slower car and another guy, with a faster car was behind you, you had to move away. To give room. To let the other one pass. And the fast drivers used flashes in order to make you aware of that.
I don’t know if this driving habit exists in other countries (from my experience, it isn’t) but in my country was incredibly popular. And still is. On the highway, is not uncommon to see in the rear mirror a fast growing car signaling you with light flashes. Go away. Make room. I am more powerful than you and I’m taking the road.
Although I drive quite a powerful car, I’m not a huge fan of “get away” flashes. On the contrary, I find them almost abusive. It’s prone to accidents and it induces a feeling of competition, totally unnecessary on public roads. To be honest, I kinda dislike the guys who are flashing me to move over.
As you may already guessed by now, this post isn’t about cars, being them slow or fast. Is not about communism or capitalism either. In fact, this post is about light and the way you use it.
In both cases the drivers were using the same thing: light. In the first case, to help, in the second, to abuse. There was this choice they made each time: first time, to support others, second time, to force and dominate. Each time they used the same tool: light. Each time they used it in the same way: flashing. Only the meaning was different.
There’s nothing inherently bad or good in or around you. You make it good or bad with your choices. You give it meaning. Without you, light is just light, nothing more. It’s you who make it alive and give it a certain quality. You can chose to support others and create, or you can chose to abuse and defeat. The environment is the same for everybody, we’re all acting in the same universe.
There’s no difference between you and other people, except your choices. You have access to the same pool of tools as everyone else. You’re not exceptionally gifted, not humiliatingly deprived by anything but your choices.
Your car may be slower or faster, that’s not the point. The point is how you use your car, what you do along the way. Are you building up something so powerful that can be used by everybody, making the world a better place? You create something so valuable that is easily recognizable by everyone on earth, while enjoying your trip? Or are you rushing faster and faster straight to the end of the journey, forcing everyone else to obey you?
How do you use your light?