Friday, 14 August 2009

Is this really wrong?

When you first look at this picture your immediate reaction is “Oh my gawd!”. Then you shake your head and chuckle, probably a bit condescendingly. Right?
But if you go beyond the image, this picture offers a great metaphor for the clash of values that results in the all too frequent failure of our paternalistic attempts to impose “western values” on developing, or third world, countries.
For this family, the motorcycle is at its most basic – a means of transportation.  It’s a way to get to work, to market, or a nearby family gathering. Gasoline is expensive, so you carry as much as you can every trip. It’s cheap, somewhat reliable, will run on almost any kind of gas, and can be repaired (frequently) with three wrenches, a hammer and a screwdriver. It’s not expected to carry one to Sturgis in comfort, or Daytona Beach, or even a day trip into the mountains. It is what it is, and even at that it’s a luxury in their circumstances and environment.
Now transplant this motorcycling family into LA or Toronto. All of a sudden their mode of travel is inadequate, dangerous, and illegal, starting with having more than 1 passenger, no helmets, and passengers riding in front of the driver. In some jurisdictions they’d also be cited for carrying passengers under the age of 8 (or 14 under proposed legislation in Ontario) and lack of protective eyewear. I would guarantee that the motorcycle will not meet any North American emission standards, and would probably fail a basic safety check. The tires are quite possibly bald.
And the lawyers would be lined up a mile deep waiting for something to go wrong.
To western eyes it’s dangerous and unwise, but does that mean we should be trying to impose our standards, from our privileged vantage point, and say this is wrong? I don’t think so.


  1. This falls under the category of things that make you go "Hmmmmmm".

    Good point of view.

  2. Looks like a family doing the best they can. Infact I think they are doing better than these two crazies! NOTE THEY ACTUALLY HAVE A REAL HELMET MOUNTED ON THE HANDLEBARS!LOL

  3. Canajun, nice post. You are right - in most of the world, a motorcycle is a practical means of transportation, not an instrument of leisure to take out only on nice days.

  4. practical, and, depending on the country or conditions they are in, it may also be considered a luxury to have motorized transportation at all. great post. i will reconsider chuckling when i see pics such as this... hmmm...

  5. Ms. M - I think a chuckle is still in order. Let's face it - it is a funny picture and something you don't see every day. It's just that there's a lot more to it than that.....

  6. I agree Canajun - one can't help but chuckle, and also be amazed at what people can do on bikes, and how these bikes can take it all with a smile! I have seen some amazing pictures from Asia of people (and all sorts of goods) on Honda Cubs!

  7. Canajun...this is not really is a reality...although I can actually chuckle on it...I have seen this in real life as I am sure Lance might have as well during his trips in have entire families riding on one bike all the time and they seem to manage rather well. This happens all the time in India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Phillipines, Pakistan, Afghanistan,...all the way to china..even Taiwan...I've seen it there as well.
    Great pic though, thanks for sharing it with us

  8. What can we say about their Carbon Footprint?
    Were they Westerners, they would each own their car.
    How much Carbon most photographers are sending to the atmosphere to get there and take such pictures compared to what the whole family will during their lifetime?
    Conveniently, Westerners insist on arguing that having lotsa kids negatively impacts the environment...
    BTW, I like this definitely not mainstream thinking blog.

  9. Sacha - Good points. And thanks for the compliment.


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