Friday, 28 February 2014

What makes a Motorist a Moton?

There are some areas where ignorance is widely respected - but not many. We can all name some of them - global warming, parking, bike helmets, etc.

I'm sure you've all come across the kind of thing I'm referring to - someone says something about global warming ('One of the things that'll be interesting is that the Dorset coast is eroding faster with stronger storms, so fossil hunting will enter a new golden age') and someone else will pipe up with some irrelevant shite ('Climatologists are part of a commie-green conspiracy, else how else would 99% or more of them say the SAME GODDAM THING!').

Now there are a lot of topics in which ignorance is understandable, of course, and I'm not talking about those ('No, sorry, I don't really understand what quarks are, is it like cheese?'). There are all sorts of areas of knowledge that are, rightly, considered specialised and where those who voice ignorant, prejudiced or downright stupid opinions are reasonably and fairly mocked or, politely, corrected. And if they persist with their crazy talk they're then ignored as the fringe-loonies they choose to make themselves in to. But I'm not talking about those areas. I'm referring to the things where sheer bloody minded irrational ignorance is cheered on by yet more ignorant loonies for whom reality, it seems, is problematic. Relevant to this blog would be cyclists going through red lights (they mostly don't), cycle helmets as invaluable safety equipment (this is arguable - probably untrue), high visibility clothing (no clear evidence of efficacy) and tangentially relevant would be issues like global warming, our nations obesity epidemic, etc. 

I don't intend to get sucked in to any of these, at least not in this discussion - I merely want to suggest that the is a theme that brings them all together. That theme is motoring.

The advice yelled at us for how we cycle (for not using the cycle lanes that are physically narrower than we are or, worse, covered in debris or simply designed to be deadly), for what we wear, for how we ride etc. can come from other cyclists, but we of course know thats not the case. Having a bike languishing in the back of your garage doesn't make you a cyclist no matter how loudly you proclaim 'as a cyclist myself'  - pulling your car out so you can get on the bike and ride it, that makes you a cyclist. The abuse we get from motorists if we choose not to wear helmets, or don't wear hi-viz etc.... Lets just not analyze it, lets not think about the content, lets only remember who its from. Motorists.

Then lets look at our other great problems right now - global warming (due to burning fuel, much of it in cars...) air pollution (due to motoring...), obesity (inactivity, largely because everyone drives everywhere...), social breakdown (loss of communities because our streets are uninhabitable habitats only for cars), etc. How do motorists respond to these things? Why, they yell that global warming isn't a thing. They say that its not their fault that there is air pollution, its not even polluted anywhay, what you talking about? And obesity? Thats not due to activity, its too much fat. No, its too much sugar. Its the food industry lying to us....

You can even look at things that primarily impact only on motorists - traffic congestion at rush hour, thats because of the cyclists/buses/slow drivers/bad roads (but never because of how many cars there are). Petrol prices, thats because of the govermnent (and not because we've burned so much petrol that its getting more expensive to extract more oil). Parking problems are because of mean local authorities putting stupid restrictions in place, not because too many people want to park in the same place meaning that the roads would be blocked.

If it were the case that these nonsensical arguments were rarely stated and fast forgotten that'd be one thing. But they're not - these are often yelled at us, repeated by 'celebrities' as if they're all proven fact, they're put forward in the media to 'balance' rational viewpoints, they're even voiced by MP's who ought really to know better. So I wonder, ought we stop battling each irrational point individually and ask what it is about motoring that makes morons of so many people? Why is it that motoring seems innately associated with a need to voice rationally indefensible viewpoints? I'll end on a simple question - is there something about the particular motorists who succumb to this stupidity that makes them stand out from other motorists? In other words, what is it that makes a 'motorist' a 'moton'?

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post.

    Some years ago I invented the term "car supremacism" to describe the ideology and culture associated with mass motoring. It is described in my book "Death on the Streets: cars and the mythology of road safety". It is expressed in the kind of views you refer to, and the belief system and practice of most transport professionals, particularly in "road safety", highway engineering etc.

    This ideology/culture seeps through our society. the cases you refer to are just the tip of the iceberg. What makes people express this stuff is that culture/ideology. Not all motorists do it, some are prepared to be self-critical. But it is everywhere and - as with all culture - we don't realise it. it's why we get the phenomenon of cyclist self-hatred. it's why motorists see themselves as victims when they are dishing it out. It backs up the institutions and infrastructure of car-centric society, which in turn back up the ideology.

    BTW, petrol prices are not high. If motorists paid something serious towards the costs they incur they would be a lot higher.

    Robert Davis