Mimes to the Rescue

In 1995, Bogota had a problem. This city of six million was plagued by horrible traffic. The accident rate was climbing, the death rate chilling and corruption rampant. People were ready for a change. They elected a new Mayor. A retired professor with no prior political experience sought the job.

He knew he need to act and cat quickly. So he got rid of the traffic police, 2,000 of them. The were notorious for accepting bribes. People did not respect them. Instead he hired 420 mimes. They were trained to stand on street corners and confront traffic problems. Because it was almost always gridlock, they could easily walk into the streets and confront the bad actors, those who refused to wait their turn, those who were honking to no end. They stood on corners and chided those who refused to obey the crossing rules. If a person ran across a road they were followed by the mime and "his every move" was mocked.

The Mayor, Antanas Mockus, believed that people were more afraid of ridicule than of being fined. The changes seemed to bear out his theory. Traffic fatalities dropped by 50%. They expanded the program and handed out 350,000 thumbs up and thumbs down cards. When someone did something right other drivers praised them. When they violated the social contract, the got "Red-carded" with a thumbs down. The people of Bogota began to change because they began to think about others, what they thought and what they saw. They began to care about strangers whom they used to speed by or cut off without much thought. 

No amount of external laws will control behavior. Action is born in the heart and the mind. What we all must have is a desire to obey the laws, a desire to honor others. If it is not first written on our hearts it will not matter if it is carved on rock tablets. If mimes showed up (assuming you did not die of fear), what would they mock in your behavior? Why does it take a mime for people to become more human?