ROADKILL

What is it about cars that dehumanizes us? How is it possible that someone can carelessly careen a ton of steel into an innocent man and then drive away as if nothing had happened? How can NINE drivers, one after the other, swerve around the victim– somebody’s grandfather– lying in the street bleeding to death as if he were a sack of potatos and do absolutely fucking nothing? Is this some horrible vision of the future where 4-wheeled robots have enslaved humanity and where our bodies are cheap fodder for the mechanized master race? What the fuck, people?

The disturbing scene above is repeated tens of millions of times on the Earth every year, an increasing massacre that we mostly accept without hesitation- not just a policy decision to trade the destruction of millions of lives for mass car use, but the audacity to resist measures that will begin to reduce the body count- like traffic calming, cycle, pedestrian, and public transport priority measures- because……they will add a minute or two to a driver’s journey and well, we simply cannot accept that.

We are so self-absorbed with the urgent need to get to our destinations, the groupthink that we are cool and hip while driving our death monsters so all-encompassing, the social norms propping up the motorized status quo so effective, our bloodlust so mediated by the cold scientific pursuit of traffic management and congestion reduction, that the truth of what we are actually doing remains hidden from us.

I normally decry CCTV, but in this case it has opened a window on our car culture- revealed to us in all its glaring, ugly and nightmarish detail the daily trade in traffic for heartbeats- the utter selfishness of driving, the total subjugation of the pedestrian in a world of Chryslers, Fords, and Toyotas- in short exactly what Hannah Arendt, while reporting on the Nuremberg Trials, referred to as the banality of evil.

What is is this strange drug, this intoxication of petrol and power, that makes even your virulently anti-car blogger (on the very rare occasions that he gets behind the wheel) feel frustrated at the pedestrians blocking his way and the old lady cyclist trundling down the slip road. “Get on with it you old bag!” I try to swallow and control that insatiable urge to press the accelerator- that unfulfilled potential to just go faster- to take just one more hit of that beautiful lusty gasoline g-force high.

Put down the syringe, stub out the cigarette, pour out the booze, park that car, take a deep breath, and remember what’s important in this life on this beautiful blue marble floating in space, this green oasis threatened by greed and fear. Break the chains. Refuse to participate. Sit in the front of the bus. Another world is possible.

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3 responses to “ROADKILL

  1. It is becoming a disturbing trend among motorists. This is from the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday 5/6/08
    Hit-and-run: driver surrenders
    Email Printer friendly version Normal font Large font Ellie Harvey
    June 4, 2008 – 10:06AM

    A 90-year-old woman who was hit by a car in Sydney’s west yesterday was moved to the side of the road and left by the driver who ran her down, police say.

    The woman was crossing the road at the intersection of Third Avenue and Prince Street in Blacktown at 11.30am when she was struck.

    The driver carried the woman onto the footpath before driving away. A woman came to help her a short time later.

    The 90-year-old woman, who does not speak English, was in a serious condition with a spinal fracture but is now stable.

    Police were not told until 7pm, when a family member informed hospital staff.

    A 63-year-old man arrived at Blacktown police station about 9.30am today and is being questioned.

    Police also took his car for forensic examination.

  2. Thank you for expressing in words something of the confused emotions that we all feel with regard to the violence that seems to be inherent in the use of cars.

    Yes, the act of killing someone is wrong, inexcusable and despicable, yet when the instrument of death is a car the situation becomes less clear. The killer did not intend to kill, so it must have been an unfortunate accident, an inexplicable coincidence of random factors that somehow brought the victim into the “path” of the instrument of death at just the wrong moment.

    But in the case above the CCTV footage shows what actually happened, the unnecessary and reckless overtaking by two cars in quick succession, the second of which was too close behind the other. Perhaps a response is to have CCTV covering all our urban streets, so that at least the sequence of events can be observed and analysed, to apportion blame where it is due and destroy the myth of the road accident.

    Being in a car is rather like sitting in your private room looking at the outside world through a viewing screen, much like watching television. The world one views becomes remote and detached and the people who inhabit it mere objects to be avoided (if possible), or intimidated or leered at (behaviour that you wouldn’t dream of face to face).

    The detachment is intensified by so many factors – radio, music, GPS navigation devices, mobile phones, furry dice dangling, the forward extension of windscreens so bringing more of the immediate foreground inside the car, making the outside even more remote, even the length of the bonnet projecting forward.

    There is a case for moving the driver to the very front of the car, with the minimum of protection (certainly no seat-belt), so that he/she may feel the appropriate level of anxiety in response to his/her driving behaviour. There can be little doubt that this would reduce the intimidation and injury of cyclists and pedestrians.

  3. Your questions will be answered by studying the economics behind the public policies which have brought us to this. The carbon-auto industry has too much political influence and its autosprawl system is destroying the human race.

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