Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Fuck Cars: A Rant

Having been very nearly knocked from his bicycle by an automobile immediately prior to authoring this essay, your correspondent can report that cars, and petrol-motivated vehicles in general, are uniformly piloted by assholes.


-How do members of congress get around? How about celebrities? Your boss? Your dad? CARS (or their flying equivalent, WINGED DICKS). Okay; and now how does the Dalai Lama commute? Poor people? Babies? Walking, busing, and crawling. Q.E. fuckin' D.
-Are pedestrians, cyclists, or strollers capable of HORRID, REPETITIOUS SHRIEKING at the press of a button? Do they have "alarm systems" which routinely and arbitrarily send forth the OPERA OF HELL at 3am? What kind of person would WANT such a device?!
-Cars are basically wheelchairs on steroids for people who don't need wheelchairs. How much lazier can you get than a room that moves at the twitch of your foot? How much more paradoxical can you get than driving to the gym in your car?
-Sitting inside a metal-and-glass box while competing against other box-operators for position is a recipe for malicious solipsism. Watching other people from inside a protective glass cage, with localized air and sound, is not going to teach you empathy or manners or decency. Seriously: fuckin' gamers have more camaraderie and community than car drivers. At least they TALK to each other whilst virtually murdering one another; car drivers, on the other hand, actually kill one another* but never talk.

*Or (nearly) kill hapless cyclists who bloody well signaled that they were turning left, and then had to wait for incoming traffic to pass before doing so, and it's not such hapless cyclists' fault that the Dodge sedan behind them couldn't fucking well slow down when the vehicle in front of them CLEARLY SIGNALED AND WAITED FOR TRAFFIC TO CLEAR before turning, jackass!!!

Cyclists, pedestrians, and users of public transit, on the other hand, are left in the difficult and humanizing position of encountering other people. Rather than zipping around in wheeled Panic Rooms, frantically trying to claw our way above our peers, we live and travel among our fellows. We sit next to the smelly homeless woman on the bus. We sweat and huff as we pedal up that hill. We at least nod to the people around us on the sidewalk. It's easier for us to recognize other people as real, valuable human beings, and more difficult for us to treat other people as objects. Seen through a windshield, human beings are easy to objectify; seen in the flesh, they are difficult to write-off.

And, for the record--maybe this is obvious, but just to be clear--cycling is clearly ethically superior to car-driving. Busing and walking too, but especially cycling. Why?

-Cyclists burn carbohydrates; cars burn hydrocarbons. Cyclist exhaust feeds plants, which in turn stabilize global climate; car exhaust leads directly to global warming (and acid rain, and smog, and cancer). Bicycles use a little bit of grease on their gears; cars constantly consume-and-shit-out various oils and pollutants.
-Crashing a bicycle is likely to hurt the rider and no one else; hence, cyclists have a high incentive to drive safely and a low-risk of hurting others. With cars it's the opposite: inside a giant, fast-moving glass-and-metal safety-cage, the driver can easily kill people around them but has to work pretty hard to hurt themselves.

 Finally, let's notice how national reliance on cars (which can be pretty directly traced to slick marketing in the post-WWII period, when industrial giants needed something other than military gear to build and sell*) has led to a horrifically fucked national infrastructure. If you design your transportation infrastructure around automobiles, you end up with stuff like the suburbs, superhighways, strip malls, and traffic jams...not to mention the fact that anyone who can't or won't buy a car is pretty much shit-out-of-luck in terms of getting around. On the other hand, if you design your transportation infrastructure around public transit, walking, and biking, you get clean and efficient trains and buses (that don't have to sit in traffic for hours waiting for the FUCKING CARS to get out of the goddamn way), plus pleasant, safe bike paths and sidewalks for local movement. (Also see here.)

*My dad has this fantasy where we'll round up all the executives from tobacco companies who spent decades hiding the health effects of smoking, and shoot them. I'm starting to have the same fantasy about the execs who successfully tricked Americans into believing that CARS = INDEPENDENCE. A car is a big moving box which 1) you can't afford without working full-time, unless you're rich, and 2) requires a massive government investment in road development and maintenance, plus 3) massive private-sector investment in gas stations, repair shops, etc. So in other words, cars are THE ANTITHESIS OF INDEPENDENCE. You cannot have one without being totally dependent on the government, big business, and your job.

...Though on the other hand, of course, now that we have built our national infrastructure around cars, there's no other way to get around. So I guess cars really do equal independence, in the same way that nicotine (a stimulant) equals relaxation to an addicted smoker.

In conclusion, then:
and the assholes who drive them.

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