Tuesday, 6 April 2010

On Freedom, Licentiousness and Dictatorship

I am 35 and I don't have to make an effort to remember some elderly people speaking about the times when cars were less numerous or even an exception in the streets. Above all, having a car in a village in those times was an expression of being wealthy. cars began to become something more normal about the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s. Up to that moment, a car was something accepted by the rest of the means of transport: pedestrians, bicycles, buses, trolleybuses, trams, coaches, etc, etc. And I say it was accepted because the car just was one more element in the streets.

Times have changed and, for better or for worse, the car has become a model or symbol of progress (badly understood from my point of view), and what's more, I would dare to say it has become a plague. Such an incredible drive was given to the car by population and political circles that it converted democratic mobility into a tyrannical one. We passed from sharing the streets with our bicycles and the rest of vehicles to be expelled in straightforward terms in favor of a mobility based on four wheels and an inefficient engine which poisons the air we breathe.

Today, organizations of city bikers and in favour of a sustainable mobility, feel, or at least I feel, like being in a crusade. But I would like to point out that I do not want the car to die out, I want an affable crusade, I do not want to do with it what it did with us. The only thing I want is to recover the space that once belonged to our ancestors and makepeople understand that we, “the no cars”, are not a nuisanc,e but one more part of “the urban ecosystem”, where all of us, in one or other way, had and have our place. One of the problems we face is how to make addicted car drivers understand this point. It is necessary they understand their cars eat up a great quantity of natural resources which are compromising the recycling capacity of our planet. It is necessary they understand their selfish and comfortable position, we even could add that driving a car is something inactive in cultural and antinatural terms. Obviously, a great quantity of excuses are spread everywhere. Excuses like “everybody does it”, “if I do not do it others will”, etc, etc. The point is tthat we shouldn’t deceive ourselves, change has to come from inside each one of us; we do not have to wait for others, politicians included, to change things, because nobody will do it. Don't be so passive because that way we will not get to any worthy place.

So I think there are reasons to wonder about the title of this writing. I am not telling anybody not to buy a car, for the love of God, but I think that with a consumist eagerness or without it, the vehicle of four wheels has always been sold as a symbol of freedom. Can we understand freedom being slaves of a monthly bill to pay the vehicle, fuel, breakdowns and maintenance ? Thanks to the spread and imposition of the car, we have been deprived of good buses and trains networks, which are far more efficient than cars and which would also allow us to get to many places. Are we to understand progress as a highway arriving at every village in our country? Regarding buses, some people can plead that there have been some attempts that have failed, at least in our province, such as the case in Onda. But humans are conservative and creatures of habit, we do only understand of physical barriers, there is no way and time is out. A lot of money has been spent on campaigns making people aware of the wrong use of the car, so the moment of making people fed up with their cars has arrived: speed limits strictly controlled, obstacles such as level changes in the asphalt, reducing suddenly the width of the road with little gardens, shared lines for buses and bicycles s which would reduce the space to private cars, etc, etc... So taking measures like these, the private car would stop being the main character in our streets.

It is nice, really nice to be free and feel the freedom, being free to get everywhere by one's car but, when that one makes of the use an abuse, freedom becomes licentiousness and that should not be allowed, or at least I understand that this is the way.

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