In Chapter 1, Inspector Borlú catches himself making eye contact with an elderly woman on the street. He says, “I should not have seen her… When after some seconds I looked back up, unnoticing the old woman stepping heavily away, I looked carefully instead of at her in her foreign street at the facades of the nearby local GunterStrász, that depressed zone”. (pg. 12) This passage shows what the citizens of Besźel and Ul Qoma have been taught to do. Not only are they not allowed to speak to people from the opposite city, but they cannot make eye contact or acknowledge the presence of someone else. It’s a law that was instilled in their heads, so they practice the odd tradition. The people that live in these two cities are always at risk of “breaching”. A small mistake could possibly be life threatening.
I think that this passage can be related to real world situations where people avoid seeing the bad things happening in our society. It reminds me of how many people in the United States often avoid eye contact with homeless people so they don’t feel obligated to give them money. Sometimes we find ourselves looking at them and immediately “unsee” them just like Borlú did.