Saturday, November 26, 2011

Collectively, We Can Make a Difference

I recently saw a headline in the Montreal Gazette asking, “What can YOU do about the road mess?”

For those not familiar with the road situation in Montreal, it’s pretty frightening.  We live on an island, so our bridges and tunnels are essential to travel here.  

But we can’t always trust them.  A bridge in one of the suburbs fell 5 years ago, killing people who were driving under and over it.  At the beginning of the summer, another bridge was abruptly closed after the public had been assured it was safe, and a report was leaked that the most traveled bridge is like a “patient” with “terminal cancer” and wouldn’t withstand an earthquake.  Those are rare here, but more frequent than those in Washington, DC.  

And if that weren’t enough, the overhang on a tunnel fell.  Fortunately, it did so on a lazy Sunday morning and no one was hurt.  

Although concerned about the politics of the situation, the provincial government responsible for the roadways has been short of forthcoming on information.  

While these emergency repairs go on, most of the major roadways are in various stages of reconstruction, with little or no seeming regard for the disruption the combined construction efforts are taking on Montreal. 

So when Annabel Soutar asked,  “What can YOU do about the road mess,” my instinctive response was, Nothing.  Soutar got interested in the situation when the bridge fell 5 years ago.  She noticed that a culture existed in which no one had to take responsibility for the problem.  Each actor could absolve him or herself of blame—and no  one realized that the collective innocence led to real deaths of real people that really could have been avoided.

So she wrote a play to call attention and raise anger.

And she advises people to, at the least, be informed and, at the most, actively hold elected officials and civil servants for our safety.  

This is truly one of those situations in which only collective efforts will bring openness and accountability to this system.  Although that has hardly been accomplished, recent actions by transportation officials suggest that the concerns are on their radar, even if they’re far from solved.  

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