People with cars gliding atop the streets we walk, like private movie stars. Like an added layer of mechanicalism, protection for your body-robot. But what do cars do for the soul?
The journey can be therapeutic.
As a child I would watch the stars and let the car-radio music move my mind. But that was from the perspective of a traveller-passenger.
Can you get the same effect while driving, focusing on the roads and the people and not dying? I don’t drive so I can’t say. But cars can make some people feel powerful. Superior. Self-important. Arrogant. Selfish.
But, car enthusiasts would argue, driving gives you independence so that rules out any of the bad. However, non-car drivers will tell you that getting a bus is better for the environment and simply walking connects us to nature and is better for our health. Cars don’t give independence, they just make life easier, they ease difficulty, save us time, allow us comfort, but if we are not careful that can quickly slip into laziness.
I live in a small city where people take their cars for a journey that could be walked in ten minutes. Time is not really saved, when you take into account the time spent parking and navigating other cars on the roads. The path we walk then appears easier. These car-egos have become somewhat somnolent and in turn become a bit too pampered, like most humans of the western world. They are the ones who don’t look up at the glorious clouds above them, they just complain about the rain and jump in their cars to avoid getting a bit wet. Because you know, the horror.
Warm, comfortable, sweet-smelling cars, filled with your favourite music, is a very tempting prospect when you’re struggling up an uneven path, battered by the elements, pushing a heavy pram with an unsettled baby inside and a toddler in one arm whilst trying to control a seven-year old who keeps jumping too close to the road… yes, cars seem very inviting now (and I’m starting to sound like the martyr, time to drop that ego-trait if I can). Walking makes you resent the car people, I also slip in ego and direct a wave of hate to those speeding cars.
Perhaps my judgement is tainted with memories from my past, when I was struggling to navigate three small children in the wind and the rain to their school each morning. The bitterness comes from my sister, who was gifted a car by my late father (thanks for that, Dad) and who only lived minutes away from me. Yet each morning she would swan past me in her shiny blue people crusher/carrier, refusing to help out and give me a ride, simply because it interfered with her routine too much. It might make her a minute or two late, if we are not ready when she arrives to pick us up. It would mean she would have to leave her house seven minutes earlier, and her time is very precious, you know.
Car-people can become less compassionate, even to their own family members. I’ve been a passenger in a car many times and heard the driver talk about pedestrians like they are second class citizens. Then there’s the rage on the roads.
Cars can bring out the worst in people, whilst promising to make our lives easier, they are damaging the environment, pushing people to the edges of their anger, killing and maiming millions each week.
But, we need cars. Just like we need our egos. We can’t navigate in our world without these machines of movement.
So who will save us from our car-crash of egos?
Google, perhaps. They began the self-driving car industry. When cars all become driverless there will be a shift.
We won’t be fighting for space and speed on the roads. We will be relaxing. We can even meditate. It will be a time for productivity, rest or entertainment.
A time to gather our thoughts. To quieten the ego and let the technology do the driving, while we take a back seat and, if the journey is short, be more likely to use our feet.