Friday, December 24, 2004

still life with mimes

While serving two terms as mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus was faced with social problems like discourteous drivers and problem pedestrians. To solve these problems, he did what any one would have done in his place: he hired a bunch of traffic mimes.

Rather than increase fines and create tougher laws, Mockus replaced the city's transit police with mimes who would ridicule bad drivers and silently mimic the behaviors of rude pedestrians. Try this in the US, you get dead mimes. In Bogotá, they got fewer traffic accidents and friendlier streets.

Initially 20 professional mimes shadowed pedestrians who didn't follow crossing rules: A pedestrian running across the road would be tracked by a mime who mocked his every move. Mimes also poked fun at reckless drivers. The program was so popular that another 400 people were trained as mimes.

"It was a pacifist counterweight," Mockus said. "With neither words nor weapons, the mimes were doubly unarmed. My goal was to show the importance of cultural regulations."

I can't see such light-hearted techniques for nurturing social responsibility working here in the states... we seem to have a system where they try to keep the fear level just high enough to balance out the apathy. But then again, we don't have fucking mimes, so maybe it's not so bad here after all.