Surprisingly Friendly

Surprisingly friendly: One very kind metalhead in the CaribbeanThe surefire way to get frisked by distrustful Colombian cops is to walk on the streets of Cartagena with a bunch of longhaired metal fans dressed in black.

If you’re lucky, the first patrol might pass on because of more important matters on their to do list – but at the latest the second one will strike for sure. And there are many police patrols in a tourist stronghold like Cartagena. ((My personal record was getting searched three times within a couple of hours. Fun times.))

Now, if you get searched and harassed simply because of prejudice against Slayer t-shirts and bad hairdos, you basically have three options: You can either react neutrally and collaboratively, angrily and reluctantly, or exceptionally friendly and courteously. ((You can also resist and fight the power back, but then you will end up in an ugly prison cell for the night. If you don’t catch a bullet, that is.))

All three reactions are understandable, but here’s my take on it: Colombian cops are always poorly paid, often overworked, and sometimes not all that well-trained. Reacting neutrally is like showing them that they are doing the right thing. Reacting angrily when getting searched for the third time in a row is only human, yet ultimately reinforcing their unfounded distrust.

As I learned with my metal friends, reacting friendly and openly to their request is probably the best thing you can do: Show the cops that you respect their work, ((…or, at least, that your respect them as the human beings that they are!)) but that there isn’t any need to freak out just because of some metalhead walking down the street. In the end, it makes everybody’s day easier and chances are that a future encounter will proceed even smoother.

The underlying thought: If we want a kinder world, a world with less prejudice and hate, less awkwardness and discomfort, why not start where we are right now?

Surprising people with kindness when it’s least expected isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s breaking through the code of “dog eats dog,” and when it comes to changing perceptions, it’s one hell of a powerful tool to direct the rider, motivate the elephant, and shape the path towards a kinder planet.

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