Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Road kill

This week's Carnival of the Green has a story on it by Jacobito about a personal experience with a hit-and-run driver who (probably) killed a bicyclist right next to him. Jacobito muses on the daily sacrifices to the almighty automobile that we make:
We seem to think secular society gave up sacrifice years ago, or that sacrifice only occurs by soldiers in war to consecrate the nation. I don't know though. More people die in car accidents than all our wars combined.

Who are the real victims of sacrifice? Who is really consecrating the nation, making it sacred? Or are we consecrating something else? What? Cars? Transportation? Speed? Oil? Technology? Individuality? What is the meaning that all these bodies, like the one I saw last night, give and to whom or what do they give it? Its easy to say thats its meaningless death. I don't think so though. The consistency, normalcy, complacency, and universality of such deaths in the USA are too blatant to ignore. If the highway is our national graveyard, the cars the tombstones, the police and ambulances the priests, then what is the prayer that ties it all together?
I've been bicycling quite a bit this summer, to and from work about 5 or so miles each way. The road is littered with corpses: hares, birds, squirrels, voles, wasps, bumblebees, butterflies, dragonflies...our roads are paved with deaths, most of which we don't notice. There are the deaths from impact, the deaths from air pollution, the deaths from oil spills, the deaths from cancers caused by chemicals made from oil, the deaths from wars over oil.

We drive Death to his appointed rounds, enablers and apprentices, all of us. Switching to ethanol, or electric, or hybrid, won't relieve us of this. Driving less, or more slowly, will. Yet, the car has given human beings an incredibly valuable freedom, and this is why all those bloody, flattened corpses are ignored. The ability to leave one's little hamlet and go somewhere else without taking all day to get to the next little village, or a week to get to the next city, is a driving force in our vibrant modern cultures. The ability to move, to go, to explore is now available to the mass of people, not just the wealthy or crazy few.

Still, cars are expensive, in more ways than one. Bicycles give a similar freedom, although not as fast; so do scooters and motorcycles and small cars. These all cause a lot less damage then do the big cars Americans seem to love so much.

Small is beautiful!

1 comment:

Simiolus Rex said...

I notice that smaller cars tend to move over and give a bicyclist some room, while the SUVs and Monster Trucks blow right past. I especially despise some of the big-assed diesel haulers...arrrrrrrr