Elsewhere the Vatican’s issuance of a tepid “Ten Commandments for Drivers” is garnering praise. The church hasn’t gotten along so well for thousands of years by challenging the dominant institutions of the day. I’m reminded of St. Paul’s exhortation to slaves to obey their masters, and to masters to be kind to their slaves. The church’s prescriptions for a guilt-free embrace of a violent institution that by its own admission kills more people per year than the Nazis did recalls another shameful acquiescence in church history. It refers to the annual 1.2 million killed and 50 million injured as “victims of accidents,” hedging “the number of accidents in which pedestrians bear a grave responsibility is also worrying.” It proposes that drivers recite the rosary while operating their heavy machinery, the better to incline them to stop at roadside memorials, shrines and other church properties. You can’t make this stuff up.
The complete document is long enough to contradict itself on many points, providing everybody with at least a straw. At one point it even concedes “it is a good idea to call for a commitment to avoid unnecessary car use.” The church is proud to claim pensiamo in secoli — “we think in centuries.” I do not understand how conveyances so fast and heavy as not even to have existed more than 5% of the church’s history, or 0.5% of homo sapiens‘ time can be understood as anything but unnecessary. Food and water, shelter and love, but 40 MPH?
Monsignor Ivan Illich said it best:
A people can be just as dangerously overpowered by the wattage of its tools as by the caloric content of its foods, but it is much harder to confess to a national overindulgence in wattage than to a sickening diet. The per capita wattage that is critical for social well-being lies within an order of magnitude which is far above the horsepower known to four-fifths of humanity and far below the power commanded by any Volkswagen driver. It eludes the underconsumer and the overconsumer alike. Neither is willing to face the facts. For the primitive, the elimination of slavery and drudgery depends on the introduction of appropriate modern technology, and for the rich, the avoidance of an even more horrible degradation depends on the effective recognition of a threshold in energy consumption beyond which technical processes begin to dictate social relations. Calories are both biologically and socially healthy only as long as they stay within the narrow range that separates enough from too much. –Energy and Equity
I wanted to work this in somehow, but instead append for your reflection this poignant indicator of the freedom we’ve ceded to motoring. How many generations will it take to recover?