The wisdom of the cab driver

Well, I'm in Buenos Aires. I took a cab from the Airport to the city, and of course - like all cab drivers in Buenos Aires, mine was a talkative guy who was ready to explain to me the mysteries of the Universe. I made a mistake... When I saw a dog, with a collar, walking the streets by itself, I asked "Are dogs allowed to walk without a leash and even without a Human?". The driver jumped to the opportunity to tell me that in "this country" nothing ever changes. There are laws, but nobody pays any attention to them... and he went on explaining how all the politicians are crooks, etc etc.

I'd like, however, to stop for a moment and consider his statement "There are laws, but nobody pays any attention to them". I believe there is a lesson for us all in there. When people show contempt for the law, sooner or later they show contempt for the government and the social compact which makes it possible: The Constitution.

A recent political storm raged around the immigrants detained at the border. Interesting enough, the cab drivers comment can cut both (or more) ways. Let's start with the immigrants themselves.

There is an immigration law, with previsions for asylum and refugee status. Yet many people just "go north" to cross the border in search of a better life. I sympathize with their search, but they are trying to start living their dream by, from the start, flaunting the very thing that makes this country so attractive for so many: The rule of law.

Then we have those in a position of power who decide that because these immigrants are not American citizens, they are fair game for abuse and for arbitrary decisions: separation of families, imprisonment without due process, appalling living conditions. They seem to have forgotten that the US Declaration of Independence states that "All Men are created equal", not "All Americans are created equal". They are flaunting a basic principle of this society.

Then there are those who used the crisis to make their own political point asking for the dismantling of border controls because the agencies charged with it are considered by them responsible for the abuses. So instead of fixing the institutions they believe to be faulty, they prefer to get rid of them. "Dismantle ICE". They appear to believe that the very existence of National Borders is unfair, unjust. Yet if we eliminate National borders, how do we keep the boundaries for our society so it will continue to be what it is? How do we enforce a functioning law with no borders?

And then there is Argentina, a country that at the beginning of the 1900s was considered the third wealthiest country in the world. A hundred years later it is bankrupt and unstable (politically and economically). In Argentina, through a process that took many (but not THAT many) years, the people stopped trusting the system, started ignoring the law, receiving their salaries "in black" (under the table) so they didn't have to pay income taxes, paid bribes (happily accepted) to elected officials to bypass regulation and the law. The result? Argentina today, and cab drivers who will tell you about it... 

Through our lives we have many choices, some of them political in the ballot box, but others as individuals. We can choose to uphold the law as the cement that keeps our society and it success together, or selectively ignore those parts of the law that stand in the way of what we want to do. But every choice has consequences. Let us remember that... and my cab driver's folk wisdom.


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