The Wisdom of Taxi Drivers
When I’m visiting a different city and taking a taxi, I make it a habit to get the driver’s view on how things are there; to find out what the issues are and what is being done right and what is being done wrong. Recently, I was in Leeds for the FaithAction and Race Equality Foundation event on Health & Housing, and I was treated to some words of wisdom from my taxi driver. In answer to my questions, he started bemoaning the lack of public toilets and how this affected the local economy – an interesting point and unusual point. However, soon he moved on to a cultural revelation. He was talking about the result of cuts and lack of coordinated planning, when he said:
“Of course a generation ago, we were more satisfied. We did not want or expect so much…”
We talked about home ownership and gadgets, the essential commodity of consumerism. I must confess that, under his withering analysis, I felt quite exposed and hastily hid behind my Kindle and laptop whilst wriggling uncomfortably in my new-‘ish’ suit.
Our grasping approach to life seems to be all around us; a visionless never-satisfied outlook.
Archbishop of York Dr Sentamu recently preached, “Ours is really the most self-regarding culture in many centuries. We make choices as individuals, we have rights as individuals. If it works for you, do it. If it no longer works for you, throw it away and go on to the next thing. Never was the human universe so large yet so small. Never was a culture so written in the first person singular. In the words of the late George Harrison, ‘I, me, mine’.”
Our disregard for the consequence of self-focused action was brought home to me when I received a text from my wife saying she had scraped the car on a car park entrance which she uses on a weekly basis. What had transpired was that those who had arrived before her had parked outside of the prescribed space, resulting in a domino effect with everyone parking awkwardly. Whilst everything looked more or less normal as she drove around the car park, she scraped the car.
What’s the point to this story? It’s just a small example of the lie which says, “If I do what feels good to me and don’t hurt anyone, there is no harm”. The problem is we are not unconnected. One lazy approach to how we ‘park’ our lives affects someone somewhere.
A former head of a NHS trust told me this week the greatest determiner of whether a patient was released or admitted to hospital was not how ill they were, but whether there was someone at home for them.
The extent of our community and corporateness will have a big effect on whether we can ride out this economic storm.