Suicide By Car
by Phez Kimono
I am a bit tired of having to dodge suicidal drivers every time I need to get on the road. I think most of us use our cars in order to get somewhere in the physical realm, to buy groceries, take a friend to dinner, work the j-o-b and whatnot.
But there are some among us who use their cars as 3-ton gestures of their suicidal tendencies. In other words, driving for them is a philosophical rather than pragmatic activity. They are yelling at the universe, “I dare you to snuff out my anguished existence!”
That’s all well and good to have your heartfelt confrontation with the universe, but can’t you do it in a time-honored fashion, with sleeping pills, say, or razor blades and a nice warm bath? Why do you have to risk the lives of other drivers? Have you thought this whole thing through?
Yes, it seems like a growing number of nihilists are using our nation’s roads to end it all which, in effect, is trying to get someone else to do the job for you. Isn’t that what wars are for? And bacon chickenfried steakburgers?
Seriously, we live in an increasingly dangerous world, and the increasing danger comes from our misuse of technology. When a governmental department or a business engages in a necessary but dangerous project they are required to take safety measures, such as cordoning off the area, regulating activity through trained security personnel, or at the very least putting up warning signs. You don’t just go waltzing into a coal mine or a hydroelectric powerplant, or the back room of a Las Vegas casino where they count the money. If you did, you could expect some bodily harm to befall you.
Yet, we are expected to get in our cars every day, jump on highways at speeds unimaginable to our ancestors, and carry out a complicated mass migration which will statistically ensure someone gets killed unless no one makes a mistake.
In other words, driving a car is not just an individual activity. It is the result of governmental and business groups deciding that this risky project is necessary for the greater good of our society. Whether you are driving because you have important life-saving work to do, or you’re just picking up some pizza, you are part of a larger social plan, a group decision that this dangerous automotive technology is necessary for our civilization to flourish.
My point ultimately is that driving a car, while seemingly an individual activity, is really a group activity. Every decision you make as a driver affects other people. If you can accept that we are all working toward some shared purpose (no matter how murky and contested that purpose may be), then your approach to driving will be more conscientious. We’re all trying to get somewhere, to get something done.
If you don’t accept the idea that we have a shared purpose, then driving becomes a competition, a Malthusian equation, where the road is a resource that must be jealously hoarded. Your gain is my loss, my need is greater than yours, etc. This way of thinking makes sense if two starving individuals are fighting over a scrap of food. But on the road, this approach is not just misguided, it’s actually suicidal.
Bad drivers are not just lazy or distracted. They are acting out an agenda, a refusal to be part of the shared social purpose that driving a car inherently requires. Every time a driver makes a bad choice, endangering other drivers’ lives, an implicit decision has been made to withdraw from the social contract, to withdraw from the shared purpose of the road.
Why is this not just small-minded and childish behavior? Why is it actually suicidal? Because the road is a very dangerous technological project that we as a society have embarked on.
If I decide to act out my emotional issues while driving, whether it is full-blown road rage or just texting on my cellphone, I have decided that my inner personal world is more important, more real than the outer physical world. I’m ignoring the laws of physics and pretending they won’t affect me. In a bouncy castle that may be a fun game, but in a car that is just suicidal.