Subservience

31 Jan

Is education the difference between being able to hold your head up high and having no self-respect? In Pakistan, and India, and pretty much every country with significant numbers of poor, uneducated people, you find a sense of deference that sickens me. What's worse, I took advantage of it the other day.

At the Marriott hotel, there's a reserved parking lot in front and to the left of the entrance. It offers easy access to the hotel, and is more convenient than the parking lot around the corner and across the street. However, there are no official rules for who can park in the reserved lot. The guard in front sizes you up, looks at your license plate, and seems to make a decision. Not in the way a bouncer at a club would size you up, but in the way of someone who has been given vague instructions and has no context for how to implement those instructions.

I arrived one night, and was denied entry. The guard could not give me an explanation as to who gets to park there. So I asked for his name. He hesitated and gave me a first name. Then I asked for his last name in a sarcastic tone. He said "Khan." I said I would be going to speak to the manager. He gave me a look then, and I can only describe it as the look of someone who doesn't want to lose his job, and who suddenly recognizes his powerlessness. He couldn't take the chance that he would be fired. He lowered the chain barring the entrance and let me in. I parked and tried to say thank you as I walked by, but he turned away. It was what I deserved.

I don't think I'll forget that look. Though I resolved not to do it again, I have to reconcile that with wanting there to be a non-discriminatory policy. I want the guards to know what they are doing and why they are doing it. I want people to do the right thing.

But in a place like Pakistan, like in India and Mexico, education and money bring their own set of entitlements. The arrogance of wealthy people is overwhelming. Are they smarter? Perhaps in some cases. Do they take on a responsibility greater than that which an uneducated person takes on? I don't think so. The difference is not a substantive one, but one of degree.

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