Monday, April 21, 2014
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MARASCO: Ignoring the Model

A sea of bodies all cramming in and out of a single door, guarded by an archaic, hunk of junk that doesn’t even accept debit — that’s the B, C, D and E lines of the MBTA. It’s dreadful. It’s inefficient. It’s stupid. Better, more efficient, models exist all over the globe, and have for years, but we’ve ignored them. Why?

The problem could easily be solved with turnstyles, on-board ticketers, or any number of more efficient methods. Why aren’t we doing that? If the rest of the industrialized world can do it, why can’t we?

Is it ignorance, arrogance or just stupidity?

And it’s not just the MBTA that has problems. Why on earth would the bicycle lane be situated between traffic and parked cars? Cars swerve across the bike lane to park. Doors fly open from both sides. It’s shockingly poorly thought-out. Why not flip the bike lane and the parking lane? I’m not breaking any ground here — that model is already widely used. Of course! That makes way more sense. No car ever enters the bike lane. All we’d have to do is re-paint the lanes. That’s it! It could be done tomorrow. The parking meters can stay where they are.

Boston is such an intelligent city, which is precisely what makes these issues that much more dizzying. But having seen much of the country and running into similar problems all over, I can’t help but wonder — is it a Boston problem, or an American problem? Are we unable to adopt the more efficient models of others because we suffer from the “America is the greatest because it just is” delusion?

The U.S. still uses the size of an ancient king’s foot as an official measurement of distance. The UK, the country that invented that system, doesn’t even use it anymore — they realized how idiotic it was.

Living under this delusion that “America is the greatest country in the world because I said so” is toxic. It’s a virus that keeps us from progressing. We’re a big, powerful, important nation, sure. We have a lot of great things to be proud of and thankful for. Yes, of course.

But we only speak one language — and we can barely get that right. We have 5 percent of the world’s population, but we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. We’re not leading the world in science or math — we aren’t even close. Forty-six percent of Americans don’t “believe” in evolution. That’s staggering. That’s appalling. Not “believing” in a fact is akin to not “believing” in turning on your brain. Does that 46 percent “believe” in gravity?

We don’t like to hear this. We don’t like to think that America isn’t “the greatest at everything.” We don’t like to think that we have issues. But we have them — every country does. We have partisanship, debt, and obesity.

We’ve rested on our laurels. While other nations are tinkering, troubleshooting, and rolling up their sleeves to find answers to problems, we’ve hung our hats on the past. That’s why we wake up today confused, upset, and in denial that we’re “without a doubt the greatest country in the world.”

We live in a mostly wonderful country, but it seems that America’s bloated ego is our number one enemy of progress.

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