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(en) Britain, SolFed*, DA #30 - Getting From A2B Sustainably

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 21 Nov 2004 11:41:54 +0100 (CET)


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Why is it that road accidents (unlike train accidents) are rarely
mentioned in the media?
The car, like the TV, has transformed the way people live - and
not always for the better. While the TV has damaged our
collective intellect, reducing us to passive consumers of crap, the
car is damaging our collective physical well being.
The carnage on the roads, and the way it is kept quiet, is truly
hard to comprehend. Last year, 3,508 people were killed and some
33,000 were seriously injured. On average, 1 in 17 of us will be
killed or seriously injured in a road crash. Even these figures are
dwarfed by the estimated 24,000 people who die each year as a
result of poor air quality in our cities, largely caused by traffic
pollution.

In a sane society, such carnage would prompt at least some
debate, and even mainstream demands for change. So why is it
that road accidents (unlike train accidents) are rarely mentioned in
the media? The short answer is, cars are good for the private
economy, so government turns a blind eye.

However, there is more to it. The car now plays a major role in
society - the shear convenience of being able to walk out of the
door and get into the car appears both liberating and time saving
and many people are now completely hooked -
'car-bound' - so they cannot envisage life without a
car (or two, or three). Given this drug effect, society collectively
shuts out the human costs.

There is a vociferous minority who have either avoided this drug
or have snapped out of it, and some on the left are now calling for
increased action by the state in order to enforce speed restrictions.
For example, they want the state to be able to make use of the
communication box soon to be mandatorily fitted to all cars, that
can be adapted to ensure the car brake can automatically be
applied whenever the speed limit is exceeded.

For those of us with a more libertarian disposition, there are
numerous problems with this advocacy of increased state control.
Such use of satellite-driven communication box technology will
allow position plotting of any car at any time, thus adding to the
ever-increasing ability of the state to monitor the activities of its
citizens, and therefore control and suppress those citizens who
don't agree with the state's line, not to mention those
deemed any sort of threat to its authority.

More fundamentally, the use of ever-more sophisticated
technology to try to change behaviour will not work. Human
reaction to increased oppression inevitably causes both social and
mental illness, and increasing resistance. In the short term, better
public transport is a far better idea than introducing
ever-increasing draconian measures while, in the long term, the
nature of a society that spawned car addiction has to change.

The problem is, governments might pretend they support public
transport, but they don't. Buses were
'de-regulated' (that's privatised) in 1986, when
the National Bus Company was broken into 70 chunks and sold
for £1 billion. The Conservatives said it would bring in more
choice and cheaper journeys, but, within ten years of
deregulation, prices had soared, there were less routes and twenty
five per cent fewer customers, with companies fighting over the
most profitable routes. After the initial rush of bus competition,
the industry is now dominated by five big players and, over the
past 25 years, bus fares have risen by 80%, while private motoring
costs have remained flat.

It is no easy task to create an alternative to the drug of
consumption which has made the car not just a means of
transport, but a must-have status symbol. We need to change the
nature of work, which much of car use revolves around, and
reduce the time spent there, creating more leisure time, and thus
taking the pressure off the time-saving aspect of car travel. We
also need to address the increasingly individualist nature of society
that has made the car into yet another personal space in which we
can cut ourselves off from the rest of humanity. Unless we can do
this, it is not hard to imagine a time when, due to traffic
congestion, it would be quicker to walk, but people will still prefer
to use the car in order to spend more time with their car stereo.

Ultimately though, the problem of ever-increasing car use comes
down to the undemocratic nature of the current system. The
problem is that in the way society is currently organised, there is
no means of people coming together to discuss the problems they
face and find solutions to them. People appreciate that ever
increasing car use is bad for society as a whole, but in their
individual day-to-day lives they feel the car is essential.

Thus, parents feel that traffic poses a major threat to their
children, while modern life is so pressured and anti-sense that
they are obliged to take their children to school ... in the car. The
dramatic reduction in car use that is now needed is never going to
come about by state coercion. This lunacy will continue until we
create democratic organisations in society, that people have faith
in and feel part off, and through which matters such as how best
to reduce car use can be decided. Only then will people feel they
have their real say and, as such, are willing to adhere to collective
decisions.

Direct Action is published by Solidarity Federation, the British
section of the International Workers' Association
==============================
* Solidarity Federation is of the anarcho-syndicalist spectrum

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