Monday, June 16, 2014

June 16th, 2014

Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

If you board a bus or train, in certain countries, you will find 'Priority Seats' - often made available by law, if not out of consideration for the clientele of the service. These are seats set aside for the elderly, pregnant, disabled or otherwise infirm. Anybody can sit on the seat. It has no special device to detect and eject any able-bodied person who should use it. It operates on a trust basis. If there is a shortage of seats, and nobody who is 'eligible' for the Priority Seat is aboard, then anybody may sit on the seat. Should an eligible party board the vehicle, it is expected that the seat will be liberated in favour of the person in greater need. It is not easily enforced, but there is general 'protocol' - a sort of 'herd method of enforcement'. Most people respect the needs of others less able than themselves - or in more need than themselves - and are ready to ensure that the Priority Seat spirit is enforced. It is a simple, human need, combined with human compassion solution. The setting aside of resources, and making of resources available, to those in need is the backbone of a humanitarian society. It is all based on the concept of 'priority', and not that the biggest and best get everything, but that those who need get what they need. It requires a working understanding of the difference between 'need' and 'want' across all sectors of the society.

'I want to sit down on the bus.', is one thing, but 'I need to sit down on the bus.' is another. Of course, there will always be the person who is selfish enough to say 'I need to sit down because I want to sit down.', those people are the ones who spoil positive development of society - often labelled with unpleasant names by those with the better attitude.

I used to be in a wheelchair, and perhaps that has changed the way I think, but let us imagine a more pragmatic approach. Let us decide that today you will not give up your seat to a less able person, you decide that 'you want it, so you need it'. Now, jump forward a few years... How do you feel when you are less able and get treated the same way? You are unfortunate enough to be struggling - unable to stand for long... or perhaps you are with your heavily pregnant wife... and you now NEED to use that seat, but, everybody else has taken your demonstrated lead, from before, and decided that they WANT that seat... You may have created your own reverse scenario - and suffer accordingly. Remember, we 'reap what we sow!'

'Ah, but we are in Ghana and we are all in need.', is a simple response - and one that I have heard too many times as an excuse for unacceptable behaviour by people who should know better. But it is not valid, for our degrees of need in our society are still very noticeable - as are our degrees of greed! Our society is burdened with a number of people who struggle to differentiate between their needs and their wants. Their wants are perhaps better seen as 'greed', and it has a devastating ability to damage our society. The word that is essential in understanding this challenge, and to finding a solution, is 'Priority', as in Priority Seats. 

When there are abundant resources, there is no issue with everybody having what they want - but when there are constrained resources, that is where the men are separated from the boys and the sheep from the goats. That is when the leaders, in all walks of life, are given the opportunity to shine - to stand out, to stand up and to be counted. Sadly, we seem to be in a world where those who 'have' are less and less likely to do the polite - what we often call 'the right' - thing. 

Why is it 'right' to respect 'priority' in society? Because that is what makes us human. If we wish to behave like animals, we would be like the wild dogs, hunting down our prey as a group, but once we achieve a kill, we fight to take the biggest portion - or if possible, the whole carcass. There is no a single human society without a 'wild dog' amongst them, but fortunately, our humanity has an amazing tendency to rise about that level of barbarism. Should we ever lose that ability, we will lose our humanity. 

Of course, priority is present on the roads and in the air. The 'Rules of the air' state that powered aircraft must give way to non-powered aircraft... for example, hot air balloons and gliders have priority over aircraft with engines. It also states that the glider must give way to the hot air balloon! Basically, the more able (as in more controllable) aircraft will always give way to the less able. Once again, aviation reflects the basis of a successful society! 

The same rules exist on our roads... but are rarely seen being applied. The vehicle on the roundabout (i.e. in motion) has priority over the vehicle 'joining' (not in motion) the roundabout... or so the rules of the road (the highway code) states. Yet, we see time and time again these rules, established for safety, being completely ignored - and often by those who should know better! The vehicle wishing to join the highway from a side road (not in motion) must give way (in fact we have signs that state that very requirement) to the traffic in motion on the highway. Yet, we see accident after accident due to the driver joining WANTING to join 'NOW NOW NOW', and not having the self-discipline demanded of all road users. They do not NEED to take the risk of causing an accident - but they often perceive that they are 'more important' than those already on the road. Their desire to save a few minutes may, and often does, cost lives. If you think that following the rules, understanding and respecting priority, and the associated safety is expensive and time consuming - try an accident! 

It is not just about training and education - it is about 'mindset'. You can develop a mindset that is humanitarian, safety, need and development orientated - or you can slip into the animal world of barbarism, careless, greed and selfishness. The choice is yours. 

Why not put the word 'Priority' up somewhere in your office or home, and ask yourself each day 'what is your priority - and does somebody else deserve being given priority'? I am sure that you will find a greater peace, and ultimately a happier life, perhaps less rich in financial terms, but much more wealthy in terms of your humanity. 

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and Pilot/Engineer with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics (www.waasps.com www.medicineonthemove.org e-mail capt.yaw@waasps.com)

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