Forget the Pyramids, the Hanging Gardens, the Gutenberg Press or Michaelangelo’s masterpieces. I have discovered the peak of human civilisation, its the queue for the 521 bus at Waterloo.
For those of you who haven’t witnessed this marvel of human civility, it is a line that in the morning rush hour stretches back around 200 metres. It is composed of hundreds of people on their way to work waiting in a single, orderly, quite formation.
The beauty of the 521 queue though, lays not in its aesthetics, but in what it signifies. The respect, and consideration shown by complete strangers to one another. These are people who could be late to work, who might be in a rush, who could very easily walk to the front of the line instead of joining it at the back, but chose not to because they realise it is wrong, because a civil society is about order and respect, about looking at those around you and seeing equals.
Those of us who have been to the Middle East will know that even the very first experience you get there, in the airport, is the antithesis of what I have just described. Inconsiderate travellers elbowing one another in a cumulonimbus mob with no thought of who was there first,trying to get one up on the next person. This begs the question: why?
Is it because of Israel and Mossad? Or because America steals our oil and colonises our lands? Is it Balfour’s fault? Or are our societies the way they are because the principles of equality, respect for the other (regardless of age, colour, gender or religion), and common courtesy, which constitute the very essence of Islam, are not prioritised over all else, and we instead focus on the peripheral accessories that have somehow become the centrifugal forces in our religion. The 521 queue, in my humble opinion, is close to being the physical manifestation of the morals we should all aspire to, the type that will propel our communities and societies back to the forefront of civilisation.
To the giants amongst men who line up every day to catch the 521, I salute you.