Thursday, October 23, 2008


In my final days in Baghdad I came up with a test, one that determines the civility of a country or culture. It's the Four-Way Intersection test. If the country you are driving in can successfully manage a four-way intersection without lights, traffic cops, automatic weapons, or armored vehicles; relying solely on stop signs and the drivers' sense of fair play, than you can rest assured that it is a civilized nation.

Clearly this is a bit tongue and cheek, but I've found that there are very few societies that can do this well. It depends on a certain level of politeness, empathy, sense of fair play, law abidedness; all attributes of "advanced" cultures and societies. Give it a whirl and let me know what you come up with.

1 comment:

Tracker said...

Hi Eric,

your article reminds me of some thoughts when I moved from Germany to the UK - I found that navigating round-abouts requires more "being at ease with yourself and others during driving" compared to blindly obeying the strict control provided by traffic lights. I also remember being irritated by UK road intersections without clear piority - in Germany, right of way is at least always well defined in case of two cars, either because of traffic signs or because of the overriding rule "right before left". Of course, even with this rule, deadlock situations are possible. I remember such "uncertain" situations sometimes giving me a funny feeling in my tummy - wondering if drivers were to follow some agreeable behaviour, but also feeling awkward about the "humiliation" associated with being the last one to get across the intersection. Luckily, I seem to have growned up at least a little since those days, as well as usually having more time.

Thanks for your fascinating postings.