Let's learn something from taijiquan exercises
Noise has such harmful effects on health that it can even increase the risk of a wide array of diseases.
And despite the negative effects, some Latin American societies have generally become accustomed to noise. Especially in some of the large metropolises (Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Bogotá, Lima, Buenos Aires, to name a few), there is no shortage of either the salespersons clamoring about the offer of avocados, or the marching vans create a lot of mechanic noise.
In Latin America the noise might even have a link with the violence, with some talking about "acoustic violence," which is also a form of pollution.
Similarly to what happens in some Latin American metropolises, in China, there have been ongoing effort to combat acoustic pollution.
But noise is a complex problem, more individual than institutional. If we could reduce the global complexity as a function of sound, we might even speculate that there are possibly two sets of cultures: noise cultures, where individuals create noise without considering that noise is the opposite of empathy.
And there is the culture of silence, where citizens are aware that silence is vital, and silence means both listening and dialogue.
It also means the collective appropriation of public space, towards recognition of the presence of others.
In many Chinese cities, I have observed groups of people who practice taijiquan exercises in quietude.
Their moves help to create a human balance within the urban environment. Relax and achieve equilibrium right in front of the stream of motor traffic. In light of this latter culture cars are moved away from urban or residential centers.
There is a preference for public transportation, for example, buses and the subway.
Acoustic efficiency requires some accommodations to avoid individual encroachment on public space, such as installing double-glazed windows in buildings.
Bicycles are considered an ideal form of transports that create minimal noise. Taxis, on the other hand, need to have an electric motor. And, above all, residents have to live near their workplace, and their jobs have to be close to normal infrastructure – supermarkets, banks, restaurants, and gyms.
But the best transport is by foot.
There is a general need for developing public transportation and easy access to facilities, and China has been working in both directions in recent decades.
We need to learn how to keep quiet. The civic virtues of the people in this respect is essential.
The use of mobile phones in loud conversation should be avoided in public transports.
Citizens have to respect the city schedules and show consideration in the hours of sleep.
Informal businesses must be relocated to specific areas. Bars and discos should be soundproof, and customers should be told to stay within the venue.
Of course, if all of the above fails, the regulatory should step in.
When some Latin American cities become less noisy, many benefits would accrue: The problems of the people would be better recognized, and there might be room for a deeper dialogue and solidarity.
This is because silence, used well, could be opportunity for individual reflection and meditation.
With the pandemic gradually in control, it is time to get back to the streets to practice taijiquan exercises.
The author is senior lecturer at the Universidad del Rosario (Colombia). He is also a visiting scholar in Fudan University. The views are his own.