Monday, February 14, 2011

Another Blog Entry Slightly More About Cars Than the Last One

I have realised, somewhat belatedly, that, despite its title, the previous blog entry had very little to do with cars. It started well enough; the very first line mentioned the proliferation of cars in the world. That was a good starting point and could have provided an introduction for several paragraphs of vehicle related writing. Unfortunately, just as I was getting into my stride the whole thing veered off on a rather piranha intensive tangent. I'm very sorry and would like to extend an especial apology to car enthusiasts who kept going to the end of the previous entry in the hopes that I would pick up my original theme. As recompense here is another blog entry about cars. Enjoy.

So, how about those piranha hey? Pretty fearsome little beasts aren't they? I'm sorry, the truth of the matter is I don't know very much about cars. I do watch Top Gear religiously (that is, once every few weeks, I fall asleep in the middle and forget to put any money in the collection plate). I did drive once for a few months several years ago but I stopped as soon as I decently could. So my qualifications for talking about cars are even less than those I possess for talking about piranhas. For example I have no idea how long it would take a school of cars to strip a cow to the bone.

What do I know about cars? Cars are noisy, dirty and dangerous. In the hands of the stupid, the careless or the just plain unlucky they are incredibly dangerous. Cars are also freedom. One of the principal reasons for people's acceptance of tyranny over the centuries has been a lack of alternatives. If you lived near a border you might be able flee across it but for most folk what ever disease ridden hell hole you were born in was where you stayed unless you were unfortunate enough to be conscripted into the local army in which case travel opportunities would dramatically increase as would your chances of a horrible death. Car ownership changed all that, now if you simply mildly dislike a place you can pack up the family and be somewhere else by morning.

Cheap public transport was the beginning of freedom. Trains, trams and the like gave mobility to the peasants but for some reason the trains only ran where those in charge of them wanted, like from your house to the factory where you worked. Nevertheless the hint had been given and soon cars trundled along to help people get to places they might actually want to go.

I've never quite managed to work out why some people seem to love cars though. Mind you, some people will love just about anything (and those people have a website) but this wholesale adoration of a piece of machinery is something I don't understand. Jeremy Clarkson is on the record as believing that certain cars have a soul. I hope he's wrong as that would make things a little awkward really. Every car owner would effectively be a slave holder. Soon there would be a resistance movement, questions asked in parliament, protests by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Automobiles) and cries of "vehicles of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your club locks". The revolution would be messy and carbon intensive. Besides why should a car be more entitled to a soul than, say, a toaster. OK sure, a car will take you where you want to go but can it transform mere bread into hot, toasty deliciousness?

No cars (as Freud almost said) are just cars. They are important not for what they are but for what they imply. It is mobility that is freedom, not the cars themselves. Cars are just the delivery platform. They will be replaced one day by something better (or cheaper, or better marketed) and no doubt cars lovers will kick up a fuss but by that stage most of us will be treating them with the same contempt they currently reserve for pedestrians and bicyclists. As long as we keep the mobility when the car is replaced we will have lost nothing worth keeping.

And yet when I'm walking down a street and I see some expensively dressed prat roaring down the street in a Lamborghini or a Ferrari I think, "What a complete wanker...and what an awesome car".

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