Friday, June 29, 2012


OK, so the connection here is pretty tangential but here goes anyway: Adam Carolla is a car guy, he has "car" in his name, and here he is, ranting about identity politics, which is probably the single most catastrophic thing tearing otherwise prosperous and enlightened societies apart today:

So what's this got to do with me, cars, learning to drive, whatever you've got? Let me rant for a minute or two.

I live in the biggest city in Canada, and since I was in college I've lived in or near its core, which means that car ownership is nowhere near as crucial as it would be if I was in the suburbs, exurbs or bedroom communities, or in the sprawling apron of small towns and struggling farms currently gestating our future subdivisions beneath their overvalued and half-fallow fields. Which means that I've lived with a lot of people who've mistaken not driving or owning a car with civic virtue, in that curious way where not doing something - like eating meat or owning a pedigreed dog or planting a lawn - is the equivalent of actually doing some concrete, measurable action that actually helps other human beings.

I don't drive for a whole bunch or reasons, beginning with the lack of a car in our garage when I was a teenager and my teen priorities favouring buying punk rock records to scraping up the money to get my hands on a cheap junker. Then there's the whole thing with the golf cart, but like I said, more about that later. Working in the media and living amidst the low-wage underbelly of Richard fucking Florida's "creative class" means that whenever I admitted to not having my license I was congratulated more often than not. As if taking public transit, cadging rides and enduring the olfactory crap shoot of a taxi ride enhanced my artistic credibility, or somehow put me on a purer moral level than people who weren't wasting uncountable hours of their lives merely trying to get somewhere.

Living through the auto design wasteland that was the '80s and '90s probably made it easier to endure carlessness, but it helped to live among all these enablers. Granted, these would be the same people who, once they scaled a few rungs up the creative class ladder and/or popped out a kid or two, expressed something like shock and horror when the wife and I would tell them that we were raising our kids without a car. Once the honest reaction ("But, how do you shop for food?" "What if you want to leave the city?") was out of the way and we'd tried to explain how such an apparently freakish decision was made, they'd catch themselves and go back to congratulating us for giving our kids a "real city childhood" or helping save the environment or something similarly fatuous. Then they'd drive off in their SUV or Volvo with the Greenpeace bumper sticker to their parents' cottage in the Muskokas.

For the longest time we all pretended that we were members of a group; people who cared, people who made moral choices without effort, people who identified ourselves not by what we did but what we didn't do - drive a car. Until that point when personal and economic circumstances made owning a car desirable, even if it was done with the usual packet of qualifiers. ("It's really just for the weekends." "My parents gave it to us." "It's not like I'm some kind of gearhead - I honestly wouldn't even know how to change the oil on the thing.") And once again, the illusion of a group dissolved in the reality of being just a gang of people who made decisions, for themselves, based on their own priorities and not those of the group that they never really belonged to in the first place.

The illusion of group membership - and it's almost always an illusion - can provide you with a lifetime's worth of rationalizations for why your own personal choice, or laziness, or unexamined prejudices, are a moral virtue and not just the way you fucking roll, at least for now. Until a better option comes along. So stop wasting your time, get off the bus, and don't assume you have anything in common with anyone else. Trust me - we'll all get along a whole lot better this way.

(HT: 5FoF)

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