It would seem that there is much less fear in general in Colombia: fear of death, fear of strangers, fear of sickness, etc. This translates often into brazen displays of recklessness, such as absolutely insane feats by buses and taxis, but it also seems to produce a greater social cohesiveness—it’s like every man for himself, but everyone accommodating each other in getting everything for themselves. This is seen most visibly in the manner that cars and buses and trucks nearly seamlessly merge and wend around each other in dense forests of flowing traffic, all without any concern for lanes or signals. The vehicles get literally within centimeters of each other and pedestrians, often while flying along at 80 mph on a residential road. Accidents certainly do happen here, but they don’t seem to happen any more frequently than in the States—if anything, the frequency of hearing the sirens of an ambulance wafting across the night air seems to be much less. Thus, much more attention is paid to your surroundings and the people around you, because it is recognized that your life may depend on it.
So it would appear at a glance that life is devalued by this apparent lack of concern for safety, but this is not so. Clearly, people here enjoy themselves and don’t seem incredibly stressed by fear or worry, even if many of them live well below modern “living standards”. This closeness with death rather translates into a relaxed enjoyment of fleeting pleasures. Dancing, music, sitting in the sun, etc. So perhaps it is a superficiality that is similar and contrary to the superficality of modern materialism in its way. In the United States, everyone is frightened of each other, frightened of death, frightened of cancer, etc. And I don’t know that we enjoy ourselves any more as a result of our worry and stress, even though we garner higher standards of living. I also don’t know that our traffic moves any more efficiently or safely as a result of our wider streets, multitudinous traffic laws, and giant SUVs. Maybe we need to just relax and enjoy ourselves a little more, and accept death a little bit closer into our daily existence as the inevitable reality that it is . . .