Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Strange Note On Cultures

As some of you know, I just came back from a vacation in Costa Rica.

It was wonderful, thanks for asking.

While I was there I made many interesting observations about the people and culture of Costa Rica.  One such observation, well less of an observation and more of it was hard not to notice came while I was driving along "the New Highway".  As an aside, Costa Ricans don't always bother with street signs so often street names and by extension directions are based more on descriptions than actual official names.

For example:
"From the gas station, head in the direction of the airport.  Turn right at the 2nd Coca-Cola sign.  Follow the road to the end and you will see what looks like a house with a deck.  That is the restaurant."

It was a great restaurant but it took us two tries to find it.

Anyway, as I was saying, I was driving along the new highway. Speeding along the new highway to be precise when a car on the other side of the highway flashed their high-beams at me.  Reflexes from twenty years ago took over and I quickly tapped my brakes.  Sure enough, there was a speed trap just over the next hill.

As I said, that was a twenty year old reflex.  In truth, it's older than that but I haven't used it in about twenty years.  Americans don't seem to warn each other about speed traps any more.  This started me wondering why.

OK, if you do a lot of driving on the interstates in the North-East you will notice that you frequently can't see the traffic on the other side of the freeway (although since most of them are toll roads I guess they aren't "free"ways.)  But even when you can, I never see people flashing their headlights anymore.

This is a good time to note that several studies have been done about happiness.  They all find Costa Ricans to be the happiest people on the planet. Check out World Database of Happiness or happy planet index.  The USA scores much lower on the lists.

While I am known for my wild assertions, I am not about to equate speed trap warnings with a nation's happiness factor.  I am, however, going to take a moment to ponder the relationship between not flashing and our own nation's low score on the happy index.

I think you have to start with a look at our past, our glory days if you will. There's no need to go all the way back to colonial days, or the industrial revolution.  There were some great times back then, but who remembers them?  I'll just throw out the 1920's, the '50's and even the 70's.  And I say it right now, I don't want to hear about the depression, the war or any shootings.  I'm talking about the feel of the decade.  They were periods of dancing, of partying, of free love and cheap booze.  But it was more than that.  We idolized flappers, James Dean and anyone who stood up to "the Man".  We loved our rebels.

Rebels.  Wether you were a woman who threw out your corset (though personally I prefer a shapely figure) and cut your hair short, or made bathtub gin, or challenged the law with little more than blue jeans and a pack of smokes, or ran around naked on LSD.  You were a rebel (note I did not say maverick nor will I ever).  You embraced the free spirited sense of adventure and, well... freedom.  Real freedom, not the bull shit freedom that we name monuments after as we take away your civil rights today.

Remember freedom?

Remember adventure?

Remember James Dean?

Sweet Jebus on a stick, if JD weren't dead he'd kill himself if he saw what became of his America.

It is time to take back our country!  It is time for us to rise up and revolt against full body scanners, chain store "coffee houses" (could you actually see 60's beatniks hanging out at Starbuck's?!?), Wallmart, carpool lanes and corporate drones.  Yes, this is a general sort of rebellion.

You can start by flashing your hi-beams the next time you drive past a speed trap.

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