Parallels (roads and books)

Last night I made this note: “Day in day out, year in year out, the state encourages endless deeds of anti-social behaviour”. Today I read an article by Sunili Govinnage who decided, over a period of a year, to read books by exclusively black writers. The experience opened her eyes in various ways. She was inspired by Lilit Marcus who in 2013 read only books written by women. Marcus wrote, “… opening myself up to a variety of female perspectives made me more aware of the female lives around me … And when we become more aware of the small injustices and tiny everyday tragedies around us, we become better people.”

Similarly, when as a driver you stop assuming priority, you become aware of the everyday injustices that characterise life on the roads. A classic case is the image imprinted on my memory of a mother pushing a toddler in a buggy across the Euston Road. First they had to wait interminably on one side of the road for the lights to change and the river of traffic to stop. The change only allowed her to reach the central reservation, when she had to wait further minutes while the green light allowed streams of fume-spurting lorries, taxis and cars to puff and chug, then she had to wait for a green filter. Only a full five minutes later was she able to get to the other side of the road. All the time, the toddler is inhaling toxic fumes containing damaging particles that cause asthma and will shorten its life. Not only are most drivers oblivious to the “small injustices and everyday tragedies” around them, for which, perhaps, they can be forgiven (because they are following rules and know not what they do), but our paid officials and policymakers pay scant if any attention to these injustices, for which they cannot be forgiven.

More from Govinnage (and another parallel with roads): “… my decision brought home just how white my reading world was. Whatever the reason and context, it took me until
I was 30 years old to learn that Octavia E. Butler existed – how embarrassing! I’m not blaming anyone or anything for this travesty, and we all know late is better than never … but I think we can do better. I shouldn’t have needed to undertake a 12-month project to discover world class authors. Slowly but surely, the world is noticing that ‘meritocracy’ in the arts and entertainment industries is as fictitious as Westeros. The inherent biases in publishing and book media are real, though; one study showed that only three out of the 124 authors who appeared on the New York Times’ bestsellers list during 2012 were people of colour, and that no African American authors made the Top 10 Bestsellers list in 2012.”

Substitute equality for meritocracy, apply the idea to the roads, and you’d get something along the lines of, ‘equality on the roads is as absent as it is in income. Bias is in favour of micro-management which supports a flawed system, so even the attempts to correct the bias are biased.’

About Martin Cassini

Campaign founder and video producer, pursuing traffic system reform to make roads safe, civilised and efficient
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