Yesterday I had a crack at discussing the troubling acceptance we feel about some victims being blamed, while having none of it when it comes to others. That got me thinking about the broader issue of women being assaulted, which leads me to suggest that it almost always boils down to men (by and large) attempting to express their dominance. Usually all that is required for this is the natural advantage men have in physical strength, along with the knowledge that if all else fails, might is right. Right?
Any assault is a display of dominance, but the reasons may vary. The reasons that drivers might display their dominance over cyclists might simply be because they want to be going faster than they currently are. Someone else might attempt to display their dominance over an entire race of people that they believe should not exist for whatever reason. Everyone is somewhere in the middle, sometimes using whatever tool is at their disposal to enhance or create their dominance wherever that may serve their self-interest. If we are not naturally stronger, we will find the most suitable or convenient vehicle of corruption to manipulate the situation, or maybe just go get a few mates.
Just like animals, actually.
So, cars over bikes, bikes over pedestrians, men over women, adults over kids, rich over poor, one race over another, one social status over the next, and the list goes on, and on, and on, and on…
People’s self interest may be instinctual – it may come from an ancient desire to protect and enhance their lives as a basic survival tactic. It was how you stayed alive. Allow the other caveman to eat first and you may never eat again. Any number of social experiments over the last 50 or so years have revealed just how quickly people will revert back to what we, in normal circumstances, would consider as barbaric or inhumane, given the right circumstances.
The seed for this barbaric nature may very well be in all of us, and that’s not likely to change. We still carry with us the age-old desire to serve ourselves first. However, as modern life in the western world becomes less about surviving and more superficial, those basic survival instincts seem to have switched to a kind of social survival. It is no longer about who is better in terms of being faster or stronger and will therefore pick more fruit or catch the animal first and survive the winter or past the age of 16 (unless you are on the Paleo diet… zing!). We merely have to nip over to the shops to do that. For the vast majority of people in Western society, our basic needs are taken care of. What are we left with? What are we doing with our latent desire to survive? We still want more, just like any animal does, but it’s a little different. In this day and age, humans hoard things that are irrelevant to our survival, or even our well-being. Things like, who is more attractive, more popular, possess more toys, be more connected, become more wealthy (not only more than we need, but merely more than the next person), and when more isn’t possible, we want better, so as to survive most comfortably to the age of 80. We are living well above what our survival demands.
The only thing that still has some basis as a real motivator for having more is competing for a mate to reproduce with, which is probably why sex sells most things these days. As interesting as a topic this last point might be, the point I am driving at here is that our desire to dominate over others has almost entirely been reduced to things that are not relevant to our survival and usually have no real impact on our lives whatsoever. Our displays of dominance have no foundation.
This washes out on our roads every day, in every city, between the weak and the strong. It is here that the groundwork is laid for the artificial inequality that vehicles present. Large trucks bully cars, cars bully cyclists, cyclists bully pedestrians, and in each situation, one person is essentially attempting to use their mode of transportation to manipulate the situation to their advantage, ignoring, consciously or unconsciously, that in the age and context that many of us now live in, it is no longer about surviving. The car is not the source of our corruption, but it acts as a vehicle for it. It allows us to act out our selfish nature over those not in them, or in smaller ones. People who are equally as valuable, equally as important, equally as productive, equally as deserving of human compassion, are made unequal merely by their choice of transportation. It does not matter that one person on a bike is trying to get to work just the same as one person in a car. The car is used as an unfair advantage over the bike, even giving an otherwise impotent person the advantage and the ability to express their dominance over those around them at will. It is used to gain an advantage in a game where there are no prizes for winning, but very real consequences for losing. Between a motorist and a cyclist, there is only ever going to be one winner. The need for survival has transferred from the hunter to the hunted because the hunter now has a two tonne metal stick.
Trust me, you’ll live to see the next day, the next month, and even the next year if you just let that car in, if you slow down and pass that cyclist when you can with a legitimately comfortable amount of space, if you stop at the amber light rather than speed through the red, and if you ride with enough caution to keep yourself and other cyclists and pedestrians out of trouble. You’ll even make it to your destination on time, because, do you know what you can do when you have safely and respectably passed that cyclist? You can push ever so gently on the accelerator and re-gain that lost second. Or, you can leave with an appropriate amount of time, like a grown-up, to reach your destination without needing to speed, or stress about red lights, cyclists, and pedestrians, which are all part of reality, and not put there specifically for your punishment.
Have a good, long look in the mirror (perhaps also before opening your door, please), and think about the real, raw, reasons that are behind the actions you take that directly effect the lives of others. Do you need to, or do you just want to feel more important?
For the context of this website, I will urge you to take just a second before getting in your car or on your bike to think about what the real reasons are that are behind the actions you will take on your journey, and what they will say about you.
Do you need to pass the cyclist right this very second so you can get to the red light first, or are you just annoyed because you think you should have the road all to yourself? Did you really have to speed up and cut the cyclist off to turn into that side street, or could you have waited two seconds to turn in behind her? Do you really have to weave through the pedestrians using the crosswalk, or can you just wait your turn?
Are you an animal, or a human being? Can you use your brain, or are you at the mercy of your primitive self-interest? Take a step back and think about the kind of person you would want your kids to be, how your actions, which are unnecessary, affect other people’s lives, and how incredibly inconsequential the cost of driving with respect for others is to you and how valuable it is towards others.
Don’t allow your car to be a vehicle of corruption. Leave the pointless display of dominance to the animals. You’ll live.
Header image: source