Thursday, November 29, 2007

What's Wrong With Driving Cars? (warning: disordered list)

It's spending ten minutes to an hour in contact with a non living mechanical device. I suppose that would be partially negated if the driver had an intimate working relationship with the mechanisms of his car, maintaining it etc... but most don't. Even so, the mechanism of the car is rather simple, does not have the subtle give and take or even wisdom of a horse or ones own feet.

You move faster than human experience relates to. I suppose humans can train themselves to relate to this speed, but it tastes to me like training for military service!

When driving a car, you are no longer in touch with your landscape. You certainly cant smell it, just stop at any moment and look closely at it, touch it, pay attention to details of it, details that spell its health or disease...

Unless you take on special military training, driving every now and then requires attention and reflexes that are beyond most of us, and even with the training, who wants to engage so much difficult attention just to drive home from seeing your friends at night?

Humans are inherently a little (or allot) dopey, sloppy, stupid, mean... Face to face, this results in an occasional annoying encounter or bar brawl. I think that we manage to weather this aspect of ourselves most of the time. I mean if someone isn't paying attention and knocks me over, i land on my ass. Big deal. The automobile, is an amplifier of human intentions, and inattentions, and thus our minor dopiness, stupidities, and meannesses, get amplified into major affronts. People get a little maniacal in a car. And if someone bumps into me at 60mph in a one and a half ton vehicle, they could fuck up my life permanently.

Frankly, I don't think it's reasonable to expect most people most of the time in their daily activities to engage the attention, intelligence and respect required of the military activity of driving a car. Period.

Two incidents. A teen I knew of had engaged in a little foolish robbery with his friends. They fled in a car. in the process they ran someone over, killed them, but certainly weren't about to stick around, so continued away. One of ‘em is serving a life sentence in jail for manslaughter. A man in my town suffered from manic depression, or who knows what, at any rate one day he drove his car onto a recreation trail and pulverized to death someone rollerblading. I don't think either of these people set out to murder anybody. The automobile amplifies petty human stupidity into tragedy.

When you are in your car you are insulated from the shit you turn your landscape into.

If you encounter someone you know while driving your car you can't stop and chat. I've had people whiz by me and honk their horns, and i can sometimes vaguely make out that it was someone i know, sometimes, and i find my self saying "so, what? if they wanted to say hello, they could have stopped and done it"

Driving a car, you are NOT controlling a machine, the pace of all the machines on the road is controlling YOU. You cannot change your speed at whim, you cannot drive off to the side to check something out. You cannot just stop and have a thought. You have become part of an incessant mechanical fluid who’s purpose is to make sure all its parts don't bump into each other at the ridiculous speed that they are going.

Driving a car for a half hour to an hour brings you through a landscape that you most likely have nothing to do with. You've not lived with it, gotten to smell it, gotten to know the people in it. Unless you stop every few miles and get to know it along the way.

You cannot read while driving a car.

When walking a crowded street you don't have to think very hard in order not to bump into each other, and if you occasionally do, its not much damage and you can mutter "pardon me" or even "fuck you". When driving crowded stretches of intersections you got to have your attention riveted, and if you bump into someone, you most likely do fuck him over, ruin his day, get each of you involved in hospitals, insurance, mechanics, lawyers, police, it's endless the trouble that driving enmeshes you in.

Maintaining a car puts a large segment of americans in a financial straight jacket. It is really expensive! And all the money goes down the drain, none of it is invested, as it would be if it where put into a house.

Because people have cars, investment bankers have strip malls built outside of towns, or even if no towns are nearby, in the middle of nowhere. These are inhuman environments, entirely crafted for the automobile. These strips put most of the local in town businesses out of business, and now every one has to drive to take care of there needs all the time and have no opportunity to share with each other a landscape with human scale.

Gasoline is very poisonous, and carcinogenic. AND NOBODY TALKS ABOUT THIS!

You can't grow gasoline at the rate we use it.

Gasoline is often procured by military action in other parts of the world that are easily destabilized, causing MUCH trouble. An occasional office building full of people gets demolished.

During routine driving at night at 40 or 50mph how the hell do you know there ain’t something on the road just around that turn that you know damn well you don't got time to stop for?

40,000 people are killed by each other with cars every year. most of them young.

100,000 people sustain some form of brain damage each year in car accidents.

People SLAM their cars into each other ONE MILLION times a year in this country involving some form of injury, and mucho inconvenience involved getting their cars in order again, involving hassles with those organizations mentioned above.

There is a shortage of donated blood in this country because people insist on stabbing each other with pieces of automobile metal and glass.

All this activity bloats the wealth of a bloated medical industry, and insurance industry. WE certainly ain't getting any richer by it.

I recall that the quality of interaction with my dad as a kid going on walks with him, either in the woods or with the shopping cart to the grocery when the car was broken down was worlds ahead of what it was when in the car with him driving. We could stop and share the world with each other while walking.

Driving encourages us to loose the habit of just stopping and appreciating existence.

Cars and young children DO NOT MIX.

The scale that driving encourages precludes construction of a world fit for young children to navigate on their own. And even if they were to try, if they got in trouble, no one would notice, because they are too busy whizzing by in their cars at 60mph.

The newspapers report car accidents thus: the driver lost control of his vehicle... the vehicle swerved into the opposite lane...

I recall when first learning how to drive, even driving around town at 25, 35mph, i realized, "what happens if some kid darts out between some cars in front of me while a split second my attention is on another part of the road? I don't want to be saddled with that responsibility every time i for chrissake just want to drive to class..."

So back to the 100,000 injuries per year, what does that translate into in terms of the chances i will injure someone every time i get into a car? say 720 trips per year times 100,000,000 drivers... hmmm i don't quite know the numbers. say 100,000 out of 300,000,000 is one in 3000. I could think of it as every time i get in my car that i know that one hundred people are going to be permenantly damaged this year in my county by automobiles. and 40 will be killed. In Ithaca about 18 people will be killed, mostly young people, by driving. I don't know why you guys are putting up such a fuss about wars all the way over in Iraq, there's a war going on right here in Ithaca. Some set of global organizations has forced us into a landscape and enticed us into these 'easy life' machines that is killing say ten of our youth every year. EVERY YEAR. FOR DECADES. NO END IN SIGHT.

Does 100,000 brain injuries/yr translate to something like one million brain damaged people over the past 50 years of driving? still alive? one in 300 of us brain damaged due to driving? I assume if you're brain damaged in some way you are a worse driver and will have even greater chance of injury. What the hell are we doing?

Cars are noisy.

Cars require light all over the place at night.

You cant walk most populated roads at night because every minute or so a car comes along and blinds you.

Streets are great places for kids to get together and play. Not when cars are around. Hell, 30 years ago out in a semi rural area, my friends and i used to hang out besides our road and explore the creatures living in the gully alongside it etc... Now that would be unbearably unpleasant. I think cars used to go by every few minutes, now there is a steady stream of them.

Most cars that get in major accidents are unfixable. or even to repair them its such a cost. It's so fuckin' irresponsible and disrespectful to take such a finely crafted complex expensive piece of machinery that costs on the order of $10,000 and then start slamming it around at 60mph with thousands of others... of cause you are going to destroy it.

Most people can't repair their own cars, and the way they are being built today, it becomes harder and harder for those of us who can repair our own cars to do so. People certainly can't build their own cars, or grow their own cars. A large proportion of people don't even own their own cars, they merely rent them from a bank.

Driving is a numbingly STUPID activity. nevertheless, one that you must pay attention to.

Most people don't know how to drive.

Cars take up too much precious space so needed in crowded human habitats. Space for highways, parkinglots, parking, retail parking, so much EXTRA parking because cars are always moving about. I wonder how many parking spaces there are in Tompkins county versus how many cars?

A car takes up one hundred times as much space as a human does. And that is just standing still. When moving it can take up to 1000 times as much space as a human does.

Cars divide human space up into two classes, space for cars, space for humans. They are pretty much mutually exclusive.

Cars poison the air.

Cars change the climate.

I am convinced that the act of driving year after year wears down the human nervous system.

Cars are not soft.

Kids can't play with cars.

You can't live in most cars. You can't farm with most cars.

Urban highways destroy neighborhoods.

you cant cross highways on foot.

little kids cannot cross roads safely.

Being around moving cars adds a certain element of fear in your day.

Car exhaust eventually turns everything black.

Spending hours a day sitting in a car and inhaling car exhaust instead of vigorously walking and breathing fresh air to get around helps to kill 500,000 people every year of cardiovascular diseases.

If tens of thousands of people can all drive to one place because of the existence of cars, then investment bankers will build huge airplane hanger like shopping centers which can be supported by such a large number of people. These businesses can outcompete smaller ones. And as you cannot yet drive through these monstrosities, you are forced to experience them in your soft human body.


Sneb said...

Yes! I agree 110%. Sometimes I feel like the "only sane one" among a world of car-loving sheep. I hate cars. They are a blight on the landscape. When I drive I feel like I'm in a video game removed from reality. The road isn't a piece of real concrete on the earth, but an abstract line in "car space". I hate it.

Imagine a cubic kilometer tank looming over the Manhattan skyline. (That's almost 3 empire state buildings high!) Now stack four of those cubes. That is how much oil the world used last year, much of it for transportation.

Each year we add ten stories to that stack of increased consumption.

Anyway, I like trains though.

barry goldman said...

have you seen the book:

"the geography of nowhere" by James Howard Kunstler

vivid description of the landscape we've created here in America, much of it involving the insanity of the automobile way of life.

Scott said...

when I see cars on the road, I wonder where all these people are going. I think it's confusing because the concentration of people on the road is much higher than anywhere else.

I see cars are always in a qeue, and I've asked myself since I was about 5, where the car at the front of the line is. I still havent found it.

I think these thoughts about the people in their cars as I pass them walking down the sidewalk. They're all angry and in a big hurry because they're late for work.

I like my car though becasue I can use it to go get a change of scenery.


barry goldman said...

i like that! "where is the car at the front of the line"! there is a great scary poem about it, i will post it when i get a chance. thanks.

Anonymous said...

I agree about cars,But without large cars called trucks and ships you wouldn't have bannanas on your cornflakes or lettuce for your salads (except in season) You get my drift, its not cars that are bad, its how you use them. They are a tool, just like the rock your grampa used to throw at the rabbit to get dinner. Used properly they are great.

barry goldman said...

on trucks vs cars. hmm.. you will notice i am talking primarily about the swarm of personal cars infesting local communities and destroying them. cars in which one person per large car is driving them as opposed to being efficiently packed with products.

the way personally owned cars have changed the environment of our communities is a LOT different than what trucks have done.

but on trucks... for a city to be dependant on forign fuel to transport food to itself is a strategic mistake, no? running farms on fossil fuels as opposed to being self contained run on horse feed and horse manure is also part of the problem, no? whereas a small farmer could grow and fuel his farm 'machinery' now he is in hock to the bank for a tractor and expensive fuel.

took a wrong turn somewhere...

trucks shipping lettuce from california to new york while i've got dandelion growing right on my lawn? something is askew.

the whole pattern might have turned out to be a mistake.

one point on tools. look at the rest of the biological world, there are no tools, organisms enter symbiotic relationships with each other crafting EACH OTHER to get tasks done.

i have a feeling it is no different with us, we craft tools, they CRAFT US! tools are not as neutral as you think.

thank you for your comment though, i fear not many come here anymore.