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The Desperation of Tricycle Drivers

In Manila, tricycle drivers can be notorious in seeking customers, sometimes annoyingly asking “Tricycle? Tricycle?” to people who are just walking nearby. The trick in dealing with them is to shake your head at everyone to show that you are not interested. Annoyingly, even if you shake your head at one, the rest will still pester you with “Tricycle? Tricycle?” Thus I think the best way to deal with them is to avoid eye contact and play deaf. Still there are occasions when due to their desperation, eye contact may be misunderstood as  to your desire to ride and the annoying thing is when they even have the gall to be angry at you for making them believe that you wanted their services when you didn’t really.

Despite my annoyance, I know that they do this because they are desperate for the money for whatever reason, and perhaps they know of no other means. I try to imagine what I would do if put in the same situation of desperation. I would probably do the same – asking everyone to be my customer so I would have money.

Yet while I sometimes automatically think about my desperation to succeed and my belief that we ought to do what is necessary to achieve this success (assuming we really want it), I have to remind myself that most of these tricycle drivers are not the same. While there are probably some there who have bigger dreams that to just eat something and have extra for cigarettes, most will probably have low aspirations and will likely already accept their life as that everyday struggle to survive.

If this is correct, their situation may be considered pitiful because their desperation is due to a lack of a real desire to achieve anything. I still recall a day during last year’s elections when a city councilor gave out free lunches to the tricycle drivers and for the (short) time they wolfed down their food, no one harassed pedestrians to take a tricycle instead of walk. Is that all they need to cease to be desperate?

Still they have the excuse of the government not really giving them any opportunity to succeed. In such a society as ours where we have to depend more on our own ability to succeed, those with above average abilities are more like to achieve their goals. Thus we hear people who slowly rose from poverty, who were smart despite the lack of nutrition or education. This is, of course, not common and most will remain in the socio-economic situation of their birth.

We become desperate because we have a need we are not sure can be met. While the ambitious will continue to strive hard, our society ought to be able to give people opportunities to develop their potentials and succeed. As a liberal, I think the solution ought not to give these people what they need, but only the opportunity to develop their potentials in order to achieve their needs (and later on their wants) on their own. Hopefully, later on the desperation of tricycle drivers will be the desperation to achieve something else than to eat and to survive. Only then can we consider those who remain mediocre to be pitiful.

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