About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cars, as weaponized transportation.

I am not one of those people who are lured to the highway by the hope of speed and envy which an automobile embodies. Nothing ruins a good walk more than the fact that so many others have chosen to drive--it is drivers and their motorways and means that makes walking a poor choice.

I confess that I was once injured when I fell off an ox-cart. I have been bucked off a calf twice, and a horse, maybe ten times. Damn, it was the same horse. But I never felt SERIOUSLY injured. Just shaken and stirred.

Between 1997 and 2001, I was in four traffic accidents -- three rear-enders and a T-bone at a controlled intersection. It changed my life. The injuries were life-threatening and severe.

So, by way of disclosure, I have a personal understanding that anything that goes faster than a horse can gallop, is "dangerous". It is not potentially dangerous, it IS dangerous. And to get so many people to engage in a dangerous activity, you probably have to trick them, lie to them, conceal the dangers, and eliminate alternatives they would otherwise rationally choose if they had any choice.

Vehicle "accidents" cause more than 40,000 deaths every year in the United States. The non-terminal casualties, ranging from whiplash sufficient to be reported (and claimed to insurance companies who are motivated to deny their significance), to every condition short of death, are ten times that number.

Tom Vanderbilt just authored a book titled "TRAFFIC", with the promising subtitle, "Why we drive the way we do (and What it says about us)". He does a pretty good job of showing that out on the highways, nothing is as it appears. He explores the appearance of chaos on the roads of India, the congestion fees in London, the frailties of urban planning, attempts at hard-shell traffic engineering, and driver behavior/ optical theory.

We live in an increasingly mobile world, but not really. We are increasingly "virtual" in our travels, and our traffic is bursting on cables. Energy costs are increasing. This is a great opportunity to get off the "driving anything beats walking" beat. In spite of the promises made by car manufacturers and engineering linguistics -- modal bias, dilemma zone, motion parallax, induced travel, traffic thrombosis -- traffic on our unwalkable and undrivable streets, just gets worse and worse.

Anything that travels faster than a horse can gallop, is considered, by a human body, to be a weapon. It is not a utility, a tool, or an extension of the body. It is going to kill. That speed is its only reality, the rest is illusion, and the speed is not compatible with human life on impact.

Of course, the fight against "cars" -- and the mythology created around them -- is marginalized. However, acceptance of the reality of a weapon in our midst is not an "extreme" position. It is simple realism. It faces the reality of slaughter.

The myth Believer gets into a car and drives to work or to the store for food, ignoring the fact that they are risking their life or their livelihood (injured people invariably lose or diminish their careers). The myth Believer is tricked by the reality of great comfort sitting in a car, into believing that this comfort is safe when launched on the street at speed.