Sunday, August 8, 2010

Getting in (and Out of) Line

The article might be a touch better written but it's observation is inventive and important.

It examines "queuing" as a sign of cultural and social evolution, and raises an important warning of reversion to a more subtle form of the old rudeness.

Amplify’d from

The reality may be more complicated, though, for in India and elsewhere, the reigning idea of modernity involves not just an evolution into queuing but also an evolution out. As scrums succumb to queues, queues are succumbing to the free market.

But the market also changes a culture. A line conceives of people as citizens, presumed equal, each with an identical 24 hours a day to spread among the lines around them. A market conceives of people as consumers, presumed unequal, with those who can pay in front of the others. It allocates efficiently, but it eliminates a feature of line culture: the idea that, in line at least, we are no better than anybody else.

In a way, the market’s spread is a return to another kind of scrum, one in which financial, and not physical, might means right. Perhaps one day lines will be remembered as antique, a quaint system in which things were granted simply for having shown up early, an interlude of relative equality between the scrums that reigned before and after.


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