Every man on horseback is an arrogant man, however gentle he may be on foot. The man in the automobile is one thousand times as dangerous. I tell you, it will engender absolute selfishness in mankind if the driving of automobiles becomes common. It will breed violence on a scale never seen before. It will mark the end of the family as we know it, the three or four generations living happily in one home. It will destroy the sense of neighborhood and the true sense of Nation. It will create giantized cankers of cities, false opulence of suburbs, ruinized countryside, and unhealthy conglomerations of specialized farming and manufacturing. It will make every man a tyrant. —R.A. Lafferty
I've been thinking a lot about car culture vs. bike culture. Jessi and I own 3 cars between the two of us, and I'm beginning to look at them in a whole new light: an almost unnecessary evil. Don't get me wrong, I like to go fast. I enjoy the act of driving a car when there's no traffic. What I've come to realize though my readings and my ruminations inside my own head is that car culture isn't culture at all. There's nothing very friendly about a car, there's very little about it that promotes community (and if you counter this with car enthusiast clubs, I'm going to laugh b/c the number of people you're talking about compared to the total of car owners is FRACTIONAL) and act of driving often brings out the worst parts of me. I don't feel BETTER when I drive somewhere... with the rare exception of a drive on a deserted country road, it's about GETTING there, not the journey. This is diametrical to the experience of traveling on a bike. It's ALL ABOUT the journey. I felt awake, alive, and connected when I ride my bike. My stress level drops and I feel happy. Granted, I am fortunate enough to have a nice bike to ride and the means to upkeep and upgrade it. Still, bicycles can be had for next to nothing: people throw away working bicycles all the time. The problem isn't getting a hold of a bike, or even being in shape to ride. We are car culture, and every institution we have is geared toward car culture. Our streets, buildings, businesses, schools (with a few exceptions), and government all are firmly and heavily entrenched in car culture. TV, Radio, Movies and even the internet are all heavily influenced by car culture. I'm starting to see this for what it is... and I feel like I've been walking (or more appropriately; driving) around blind since I got my drivers license. To quote Todd from the entry on his blog that inspired this post:
August 1st, 2005 at 8:30 am
Thanks Paul. I just found this:
Science fiction author R. A. Lafferty wrote a seminal short story back in the late 1960s called “Interurban Queen.” It describes an alternative world in which certain wealthy American investors chose to put their resources into light rail instead of the automobile back at the turn of the previous century. It’s enough to make you cry for what could have been. If you can’t find it under the author’s name, try looking for it in an anthology called Orbit 8, edited by Damon Knight.
I’ll edit the post to correct the attribution date.
It does make me want to cry sometimes. Honestly, I'm ashamed of how little I've done in my lifetime to make some sort of difference in the downward trajectory of human culture. I feel like the older I get, the more I "wake up", and the more there is to do. As a father, there's a whole set of values I feel the need to teach my son inre: stewardship of the earth. There's not nearly enough of it going on, and that needs to change or we're headed for an extinction level event; nature's forcible cough that ejects humankind from the ranks of the living. I've lost all faith in religion, though I find it somwhat comforting to believe in a "higher" power. If there was a higher power though, it's not paying any attention to us. I think our perception as humans is still too small and limited to understand what's really going on.
Yeah, I just wandered out of bounds again.. thankfully no one edits me but me, so I apologize to anyone who might actually read this.