No bus security, no road safety

Even if you ride in a chauffeured Volvo, it's in your interest to promote public transportation.

By MARK L. LEVINSON
February 6, 2008 21:52
3 minute read.
No bus security, no road safety

egged bus 224.88. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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Let others wonder whether Barack Obama is at heart a Muslim. I wonder whether Ehud Olmert is at heart a Taoist. His father did immigrate from China, you know. And Olmert's policies seem to embody the yang, which is the creative, aggressive, conventionally leaderly impulse, no more than the yin, which is its vital counterbalance in Chinese philosophy - the inward-turning, reductive impulse that tends toward inactivity and emptiness. Thus for example Olmert will on the one hand yangishly attack Gaza on the tactical level, while on the other hand his goal as embraced on the strategic level is the yinnish goal of being nowhere to be found in Gaza. Pressed to do more, he did something that is the opposite of doing: he commenced not providing fuel to Gaza. When that didn't work, he went to the double-yin extreme of not not providing fuel. Another recent stroke of not-doing from Olmert's administration is the removal of bus security. Dynamics being what they are, we can assume that just as the terrorists moved in when we left Lebanon and Gaza, they will move in on the buses too; and that worries me. First of all, if the terrorists control the buses, they will probably replace the regular numbers on the front with those funny Arabic numerals that don't even look like what we regular people call Arabic numerals. The four looks like an E, the five looks like a zero and the six looks like a seven. In my opinion, the funny numbers are just another way of keeping the friction up and the understanding difficult, like the whole "We're Muslims, not Moslems" thing. IF THE terrorists take over the buses, they'll stop handing out free copies of Yisrael Hayom and start handing out copies of Al Quds, or The Guardian. And every time they see a helicopter, they'll think it's the army and start speeding in the other direction, passengers and all, looking for the nearest kindergarten to shelter behind. It was hard enough learning Hebrew. I don't want to have to learn the Arabic for "You know, driver, I'll bet I'm as irritated by Ariel Silber as you are." Or "Don't tip the bus off this cliff coming up. There's a steeper one right after my stop." Initially, I admit, I thought that Olmert's government stopped protecting the bus riders because he cared more about the prosperous classes. Back in the 1990s, after all, your classic bus attack victim was a low-salaried worker, an immigrant on welfare, or soldier who couldn't wangle an assignment near home. Olmert's kind of people, who spend their time not riding buses but lounging at overpriced cafés, started getting targeted only after experience bred alertness and boarding a bus with a bomb became more difficult. But it's not that simple, and there's a difference between abandoning the suckers in Gaza or Lebanon and abandoning the suckers who ride buses. A case can be made that we have no future in Gaza or in Lebanon, but on public transportation we are supposed to have a future. Even if you ride in a chauffeured Volvo, it's in your interest to promote public transportation. As Zelda Harris of Metuna pointed out to me the other day, when terrorists scare people away from the buses, the number of private cars on the roads increases. The more cars, the more pollution and highway casualties. Gridlock. Global warming. Insurance hikes. Here and there, road rage. Plagues that do not distinguish between rich and poor, nationalist and leftist wimp. If only for the sake of the new Middle East, Mr. Olmert, do not scatter those bus passengers into private cars. They're poor people, and if they can afford to drive at all, they drive jalopies that they can't afford to repair. Super-polluters. Accidents prowling for a place to happen. Obsolete cars with dents and bad repaints that make us look like a third-world country. Understand, Mr. Olmert, that removing bus security is not just a taking away, not just a self-shrinking yin thing. It is a great unleashing of bad yang - dangerous cars that shouldn't be on the roads, frustrated drivers who should be on the buses, and fumes that you shouldn't have to breathe. And although any bus passengers who get blown up don't vote, their friends and relatives still do. The author works primarily in technical writing and in translation.

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