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.