Cars And Posthumanism Chapter 13: Loaded Pistol

[ “Do ya feel lucky, punk?” ]

(This post is part of a series: see Chapters 1, 23, and 37)

True story: A few days ago a neighbor of mine who’s a mother of four young children told someone who was driving too fast down her residential side street to slow down. In response, a person in the car aimed a pistol at her. Totally sick and twisted, but probably more a result of deep-rooted cultural issues than of the dehumanizing effects cars have on people.

What I find more revealing about how people devolve when they get behind the wheel of a car are the things average people do every day. My current pet example: people who run lights going red when there’s a crowd of pedestrians about to step off the curb to cross the street. I work in downtown Seattle and I see this multiple times pretty much every day. And especially for right turns — apparently many drivers believe there is a special rule that says you get an extra time window to blow a red if you are turning right.

It is undeniable that drivers who do this are taking a gamble on seriously injuring or killing someone. They are making a choice that saving a minute or two is worth this risk. But here’s the thing: Were they not intoxicated with the power of a big machine, these same people would do anything to avoid putting others at that sort of risk. Imagine a person walking in the street in front of a crowd of pedestrians waiting for the walk sign, and imagine, as the signal changes to “walk,” that person waving a big sword inches from the faces of the people standing there. This is in effect what drivers are doing when they push red lights.

The amazing thing is that not only are the drivers stripped of normal healthy human compassion by cars, but that the pedestrians put up with it with nary a complaint. No doubt most people are shocked and enraged to hear about an incident with a gun such as I described in the beginning of this post. So where’s the outrage when they are threatened to essentially the same degree by a driver in a car? Just another sad quirk of a culture enslaved, both mentally and physically, to cars.