Did I not say yesterday that lining up was a culturally specific behaviour? Today’s column in the Post by Tristin Hopper (Line Up, Eh!) shows that the more disorderly the society, the less they line up, and the more orderly the society, which is to say those that show the highest degree of social trust, all people have to do is mark their place with tape – that place being Japan, which makes us look third world by comparison.
Lining up is an aspect of social trust. Societies of lowest trust – China – do not line up at all. In India, they line up only to vote (another British idea) but stand touching each other so as to prevent queue jumpers.In Italy they line up but have to be on guard against the many who think queues are for idiots.
Lining up is a rational response to the trust that the allocative mechanisms and procedures at the head of the line are fair.There will be a seat on the bus, or not, depending on the space available, and not on the tribal whim of the bus conductor.
All thinking people should read Francis Fukuyama’s “Trust”. Though Fukuyama set out to explain the scale of business enterprizes, and whether they were under public ownership (e.g. Airbus) or private ownership (e.g. Boeing), by reference to each society’s history of trustable political institutions, or lack thereof, his analysis works just as well on the issue of line-ups.
It is also worth noting that cutting into a line up engenders wild feelings of rage, which it should, because being a behaviour neither sanctioned nor defended by law, only primitive vigilante violence will uphold it. (Queue jumping produces the same vigilantism as cattle rustling in an honour-based but otherwise lawless pastoral society, for that matter, and for the same reason, viz Scotland in the time of Rob Roy, Afghanistan today).
In the a Post article, a refugee from Iran describes lining up as “an absolute luxury” that we would abandon if we or our children were imperilled.
I think the contrary. It may be the social discipline that lining up involves provides the wherewithall to defeat the want, misery and unfairness of what makes the Third World what it is. The social discipline that lining up requires is generated out of trust that the allocative mechanisms at the head of the line are fair, and that means that we trust the allocators.
That we trust the allocators is a significant political and cultural accomplishment of constitutional evolution and the wars we fought to get to liberal democracy. But I would trust the allocators less if I knew they were from the Quebec government, say, rather than from my own political culture. And in China, there is no reason to trust the allocators at all, unless you are kin to them.
A high-trust society is a precious political artifact, Let’s not screw it up with multiculturalism.