Thursday, September 28, 2006

The stigma

Concept I
stig·ma (stĭg')
n., pl. stig·ma·ta (stĭg-mä'tə, -măt'ə, stĭg'mə-) or stig·mas.

A mark or token of infamy, disgrace, or reproach: “Party affiliation has never been more casual... The stigmata of decay are everywhere” (Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.). See synonyms at stain.

American Heritage Dictionary
Concept II
public transportation

Demographics: Working class, retail assistants, the office kakak, students and Indonesian/Bangladeshi labour.
Reputation: Unreliable, infrequent, slow, dirty, (relatively) cheap.

My inference.
Concept III
middle class

A social and economic class composed of those more prosperous than the poor, or lower class, and less wealthy than the upper class. Middle class is sometimes loosely used to refer to the bourgeoisie. In the United States and other industrial countries, the term is often applied to white-collar, as opposed to blue-collar, workers.

Values commonly associated with the middle class include a desire for social respectability and material wealth and an emphasis on the family and education.

Houghton Mifflin
Now, what I am going to argue here is going to be quite flimsy - I don't do sociology (?). I have written about this before, but I think I should re-emphasize what I have written.

I'm guessing that most readers here are either middle-class or student. Use of public transportation is typically restricted to just the LRTs and Monorail. Most use the LRT as they either live close enough to stations or have mom/dad/bro/sis/bf/gf/husband/wife to drive you to the station. You also know how to drive, and you have a car, although you might have to compete with other household members for the car.

As for the rest of you who DON'T use public transportation, it's because the LRT is too far away and it might be a little silly for you to be dropped off at the station. And besides, you have a car available.

We are all willing to use public transportation as long as it is comfortable, reliable, convenient, affordable and safe. Or at least, that is what we say we demand.

Really, I think an important reason why many of us AVOID public transportation (esp. buses) like the plague is because of our perception (concept I) of who else uses it (concept II), because it is incompatible with our typical bourgeoisie aspirations (concept III).

In other words, it is socially unrespectable and unimaginable that someone like us would want to sit in a metal box with other plebs. In here, it is harder to listen to MixFM (although it is not impossible). Bosses have to sit next to their underlings, poor people get the same quality of service as those more affluent.

There are few points I would like to make here:

Shouldn't we be discarding this feudalistic mindset of "us vs them"?

I can understand that public transportation has been shit for a very long time. But in very recent years, I, for one, have observed very positive improvements. And yet, many of us are still avoiding it. Given one day, in the very near future public transport really becomes comfortable, reliable, convenient, affordable and safe, would you then be willing to use it?

In many places, KL including, I think that many of us use the excuse that public transportation is uncomfortable, unreliable, inconvenient, not as affordable as it should be and unsafe, simply because we want to rationalize our aspiring motivations (make excuses). We don't want to be associated with the poor people who are "lower" than us.

In Europe, I have noticed that poor and rich people use buses and trains. In fact in England, you can frequently see lawyers and bankers in the Tube (and buses). Taking Virgin Train's intercity services is also quite normal for these people.

As long as you let public transportation, especially buses, be the domain of the stereotypical-cannot-make-it-types, it will continue to be. (sorry, this is so not PC). If it is reliable, would you put aside your "aspiring attitude" for a while and be willing to claim the buses as part of your reality too?

Give it a try
I am also suggesting the idea that there have been improvements in public transportation, especially with Rapid KL's buses, and that you should consider giving it a try. I am not asking that you totally depend on it, but how about just giving it a try?

Instead of driving to the station to hop on the LRT, how about trying the buses? Instead of driving out to lunch, how about trying out the City Shuttle?

I maybe wrong. You're expectations might not be met, and you might hate it more than ever.

(Also think about it, the taxes that you pay that come from you're hard earned salary is being used to subsidise this improvement. And you don't even want to see for yourself where your hard earned money is being poured into?)

As long as we middle-class stereotypes do not flood the system, how can the system improve? Poor and less-educated people are generally bad consumers, they don't know how to demand good service. They don't really dig consumerism, because they don't have the spending power to do so and they don't know how to do so.

When they are wronged by a bus driver, they are less likely to file a complaint or write to the newspapers. When the bus comes late, they would just wait. When there are no so-called educated people to show the way how to line up to enter the bus, how will these people ever learn?

So the fate of this system, that could potentially benefit you, lies in your hands.

Admittedly, this reasoning in this post is built on sinking sand, and even worse it contains many many politically incorrect suggestions. But I am trying to explain an idea, which I'm not very good at. I have over-exaggerated and compartmentalized more than I should have.

I'm sorry.

But I hope you get the idea. If not, just forget what you have just read and entertain yourselves with this. Ha ha.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think another reason is the weather. Overseas, people can walk comfortably for most of the year and to take public transport, walking is required. Even Singapore with its excellent transport system sees a lot of people prefer taxis (which are excellent) or driving rather than the train coz of hot weather.

Another reason is that public transport must go somewhere first before people will take it. For example, someone staying in SS2, PJ hoping to get to work in Puchong - How? Or Subang Jaya working in Damansara Heights - How?
p/s good blog you have here!

3:57 PM  

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