If you stand around a traffic intersection in Tirana, Albania, 5 minutes is all you need to put the finger on the country’s key problem. There is simply no respect. No respect for formal rules. No respect for other people.
In Tirana, a red light means “slow-down” to the driver while it means “cross-if-you-dare” to the pedestrians. Young children learn from their parents and grandparents the art of jay-walking, passing a four-lane street without being killed, rather than waiting 35 seconds for a green light.
For a large SUV, the same red light means “speed up”. The fact that some pedestrians may be half way across the street means nothing to the driver of the 2 tonne monster machine. He does not respect them anyway. If by chance a policeman makes the effort to stop the road killer, the driver is most likely to give him a verbal beating. The policeman will join the driver in the dog-fight, shouting back and waving hysterically with a green and red ping pong racket. After a short exchange of offensive language, the jeep rushes off. He does not respect the policy force anyway. As the driver of a big car, he is above the law. The message to younger generations is clear – you want to be respected, make sure your dad buys you a big, f-kn car!
From this anecdotal evidence, a serious question arise. If you do not respect basic and universally applied traffic rules, can you respect the more sophisticated rules of democracy, or even legislation? Probably not. In societies where there is no respect for authority, rules or altruistic values, some people will always feel that their “bigness” puts them above the law, and ahead of the rest of the population. This is the law of the jungle, not the foundation of civilized behavior, and our collective behavior is our political culture, upon which political institutions are built and maintained…see it all starts at the local road crossing!