Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Driven to Tears

I attended a "Defensive Driving Class" today. My employer requires it (likely because the insurance company requires it). It isn't that bad really. I'm out of the office for the day and I get a 10% discount on my insurance when it is over. Hearing the same things you've heard over and over are quite difficult. But I notice that as I get older I am able to appreciate much of what the course is trying to achieve. Over the years we've changed our perspective on driving. We've had a soaring population but don't have many more roads upon which we drive. Traffic, Road Rage and stress make driving difficult. Long commutes make it worse. There is so much one could write regarding cars, driving and the American way of life. Automobiles are likely the symbol most associated with the United States; it is obvious why there is so much resistance to scaling-down and scaling-back the icon or our freedom.

The thing that I took away that wasn't on the practical side was how rules, however odious to us all, can save lives. When the statistics were being read regarding speed limits, seat belts, child safety seats, air bags, etc., it was staggering. It isn't so much that the devices saved lives, it was that the government had to fight so many people to make these things law. It is amazing to me how to this day so many people are offended by being forced to wear a safety belt or drive the speed limit. All the numbers I see build a strong case.

I don't like being told what to do. I don't really know many normal folks who do (sure, some like to dress up like Stormtroopers and... well, you know...). But one of the drawbacks of civilized living is that we must co-operate to live. I guess this is why I am as I am politically. It isn't that I want the jackbooted thugs telling me what to do, it is just that I don't trust others to do the right thing. The lives saved by government mandates is stunning. Same for clean water (get it while you can... Bush is doing his level best to get rid of that), clean air, safe working conditions, and not having to wake up to find your neighbor has started his own hog rendering plant. God knows that I don't like Big Brother watching me. I wish the government could back off on a lot of things. Again, we have to live, learn and compromise to figure out the best balance. There is no perfect way, there is just walking the path and making adjustments as needed. I think we've swung too far to one side over the last years and need to head back. But don't worry, we'll swing back the other way before too long. Maybe the pendulum will settle one day?

Sure, it would be great if we could make all the changes to our society that are urgently needed without being compelled. It would be nice to live in a Libertarian paradise where everyone is educated, rational and willing to compromise. Alas, we're not. We see the signs of energy crisis, environmental crisis, global war, overpopulation and consumerism out of control. Yet, we do nothing. We say we want to live "free", but we don't earn the right to be free by our actions. We are children acting as grown-ups. Better yet (in keeping with my automobile theme) we are driving down the interstate at 100 MPH. In the rear view mirror we see the lights flashing. We are busted. There are laws and we decided to ignore them. We used too much oil, we consumed more than our fair share, we acted selfishly and brutishly with other nations, we stood by and did nothing when confronted with a lying government, we treated those different from us with disdain and contempt, we sold our children's future for an SUV, we imagined ourselves to be the only species who matters and we didn't think beyond the next fiscal quarter.

"License and registration please."


Blogger Ian said...

I still have hope that individual responsibility and the social pressures exerted on a person by "the tribe" will replace the nanny state one day.

However, I agree with you that some governmental regulation is necessary, it's just a matter of redesigning it with a new strategy. I think the most important thing government should do is to control corporate entities, as they are overwhelmingly responsible for our societal and environmental ills. But, of course, the gov will have to be made independent, somehow, of them first.

The vision that government is taking on "protect people from themselves" is absolutely stupid... It's just a bunch of frustrating tweaks pushing us down a path to hell regardless of the statistics when what we really need is a total vision overhaul.

December 01, 2006 7:30 PM  

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