Life in the subjunctive lane....

Earlier this afternoon, I saw an exasperated man riding his bike in dangerous traffic. His face wore an angry look of the type I associate with Critical Mass activists. Then I noticed that he had reason to be angry: He was towing a bicycle trailer like this, in which rode a small infant (less than a year old).

I grew a bit irritated, and I wondered what kind of father would subject his infant to the reckless assumption that all drivers are safe and prudent, that they have not been drinking, that their brakes work properly, that other drivers might not cut them off, or even that they might not have a sudden heart attack behind the wheel. It just seemed, well, irresponsible in the extreme. But then, as a libertarian, I don't like government telling people what to do. It's none of my business how people run their lives and raise their children, etc.

But what about the fact that infants have to be strapped into expensive car seats even when they are riding in much safer vehicles called automobiles? Isn't that a case of government telling people what to do? Putting an infant in a flimsy, lightweight trailer and then hitching it onto a bicycle is more dangerous than putting an infant in car (even without a car safety seat) by a factor of at least ten.

And then there was that look of moral indignation on the father's face.....

It's still with me, and I just can't shake it. I'd be willing to bet that he (and others like him) thinks in terms of government solutions which would make government-mandated car seats look positively libertarian.

Like getting rid of all cars, perhaps?

I can't think of anything more unfair, more backwards, or more Luddite. It's so impractical as to be ridiculous utopianism. Welcome to the Middle Ages!

(And it's not as if car drivers are trying to outlaw bicycles. They're no more interested in doing that than are meat lovers in outlawing vegetarianism.)

So what's going on? Are these bicyclists living in an imaginary world? A world of what should be rather than what is? You might as well argue that war is wrong, because there "should" be peace. And self defense is wrong because there Should. Not. Be. Violence.

As Trotsky put it:

Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravity.

A Culture War based on intolerance of lifestyles unpopular with the dominant culture is one thing, and I am against that. But this stuff -- wildly impractical ideas based on the wholesale transformation of human nature -- it's as if there's a war between the imaginary and the real. And the imaginary wants to outlaw the real.

When reality does strike, of course, the new religion of the imaginary simply labels reality as evil.

If some ordinarily negligent driver (let's say a teenager driving on a new license) were to rear-end the trailer and crush that helpless infant, I'd bet just as Michael Moore blamed Charlton Heston for Columbine, that dad would blame the evil, polluting, war-loving, militaristic culture of Bush.

Never would he blame himself! Why, he's more than blameless; he's morally superior! He has evolved to a higher plane of existence based on a better world not of what is, but of What. Should. Be. And if his infant survives and turns into a kid, what do you suppose his dad will do when he's attacked by a bully? Teach him how to defend himself? Hell no! He'll demand that the violence stop, and he'll blame evil American culture.

I assure you that he is not alone:

You may say I am a dreamer

But I am not the only one

Imaginary religion is worse than the real thing.

First they came for the Hummers, but I didn't own a Hummer.....

UPDATE: Tim Blair links to an utterly marvelous post on a related note. One of Vanity Fair's finest leading intellectuals, James Wolcott, thinks Hurricane Frances is giving us what we deserve:

A catastrophe strewing death, fire, and human remains across Bush's home state of Texas was inauspicious to our undertaking; and so it has proven to be. Frances is the second hurricane to afflict Florida, home of brother Jeb, in rapid succession.

The gods are not pleased. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Who is this morality crusader to dare speak for the gods? Next he'll be claiming the gods want us on bikes!

MORE: A comment left by "goldsmith" (about Wolcott's revenge-of-the-gods post) is so damningly right that I can't resist repeating it here:

That is so deeply offensive that I can scarce think of a comment capable of expressing my revulsion. But let's try. Please excuse the rant.

It's amazing to me that the "left" (how outmoded and meaningless these distinctions are) have evolved into the most uptight, anti-rational, superstitious and piously moralistic bunch since the Puritans walked the wild forests of America (though I hesitate to make the comparison, since the Puritans accomplished great things). The "left" may joke and titter and wheeze about "fundy Christian wingnuts" but find someone lecturing you about your immorality, your materialism, your sinful pride, your lack of spiritual value and, most likely, they will be driving an old Volvo with the radio tuned to "Pacifica" and a GEORGE BUSH IS A LIAR bumper-sticker on the fender. Your average lefty is quicker to take offense than a blue-haired old presbyterian; they are constantly monitoring everyone for signs of racism, sexism, colonialism, anti-animal hate speech. They will criticize your car, your house, your synthetic fiber sweater, your swear words, your cigarettes, your sandwich, your choice of grocery bag, your skin color (if it is in the dusky pink range). Life to them is a laundry list of strictures, taboos and lamentations. They hate science, they fear Christianity, they think heterosexual porn is rape, they believe in magic, aromatherapy, tribalism; they scream about Bush killing children but fail to bat an eyelash at the consequences of "pro-choice". They cringe in disgust and embarrassment at the "black and white" moral distinctions of Bush (and Reagan in his time) when he speaks of the "axis of evil", yet no one uses the word evil more than leftists when describing the Bush Administration, capitalism, America, Israel. They mock and scoff at the president's religiosity, yet speak in reverential tones of Gaia, Buddha, Wicca, Yoga. And on and on.

In other words, they are as wrought out, blinkered and dangerously conflicted and superstitious as your average Puritan (or probably closer to your average medieval peasant), yet they call themselves progressives and call everyone else fundamentalists, warmongers, fascists. Freedom is slavery.

The end result of stewing in this murky broth of half-truth, projection, fear, and mis-education? A man sitting in Manhattan at the dawn of the 21st century, writing on a weblog about poorly-understood prehistoric deities taking delight in the destruction of sinful man's hubris-saturated civilizations. Vive Memor Lethi Fugit Hora. Pride goeth before the Fall. It almost makes you want to laugh, if you weren't crying.

The worst thing about Wolcott is that he's a sow's ear in silk purse drag; when bad logic and superstitious intellectual trash are dressed in the Sunday finery of high-falutin' language, they remain bad logic and superstitious intellectual trash. (Reminds me of John Kerry -- and what my farmer grandfather used to say: "You can't make a race horse out of a plowhorse!")

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. So is great writing talent. I'd be sorry for Mr. Wolcott if he wasn't so terribly wrong.

posted by Eric on 09.06.04 at 05:38 PM


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Tracked on September 8, 2004 3:25 AM


Speaking from experience, he could have that expression because he didn't have an alternative route. My route home from high school included one stretch of gutter-riding on a street with no shoulders; I was usually fine but some twerps had the habit of honking when they were right behind me and shouting out obscene comments (Did I mention I had a uniform skirt?) There really wasn't a better alternative; afternoon traffic made my morning route less acceptible.

I'm not saying that he made a wise decision, or that it was the reason for his expression, but I'm offering one hypothesis...

B. Durbin   ·  September 6, 2004 6:45 PM

If they don't look angry they'll have that goofy "Speaking truth to power" expression instead. Grrr. I hadn't thought of the double standard till you pointed it out. For kids in cars, a federally mandated, fire resistant, rear facing crash couch. For kids behind bikes, an aluminum tubeframe with a nylon tent. The little red aerial flag DOUBLES your safety margin.Sweet Jesus. Would a cardboard box nailed to two skateboards be street legal?

J. Case   ·  September 6, 2004 10:37 PM

As a cyclist I am often annoyed at motorists who break the law, endanger my life and then have the gall to be annoyed at me. Those folks (I am looking at you Toronto taxi drivers) should have their licenses revoked. And just so we are clear, I am equally annoyed at cyclists who endanger pedestrians by cycling at speed on the sidewalk, etc. etc. and so forth. There is plenty of bad driving to go around. The point is that my libertarian sensibilities do not prevent me from understanding that the public highway has to be shared and for it to be shared safely we need to agree the terms by which it is used. All I ask is that the law be enforced in one percent of the traffic violations I see every day.

But you are right to talk about reality. The reality is that most motorists break the law and endanger my life and then have the gall to be annoyed about it. No crank letter to the city changes the immediate problem of yet another illegal, unsignalled lane-change forcing me off the road. An instructor at a motorcycle safety course I took years ago posed a question of who was to blame in just such a situation (motocycles and bicycles share many of the same challenges on the road). The answer? The motocyclist is always to blame - who must be responsible - because it is the motorcylist who is going to end up in hospital no matter how illegal, irresponsible and inconsiderate the behaviour of the motorist who caused the acccident. I would not even consider attempting to cycle in traffic with a child strapped into a trailer.

Flea   ·  September 6, 2004 11:44 PM

Umm. Motorcyclists. But now I want a motocycle.

Flea   ·  September 6, 2004 11:47 PM

Luckily these particular neoliberals are a self correcting phenomenon. Like the Tarranto observation about pro abortionist--there will be fewer of them each generation.

Rick   ·  September 7, 2004 2:38 PM

Excellent analysis of the mentality of the Utopians. Their ideal world: No freedom. No responsibility. And they demand it NOW. Or else.

Or else what? Four more years of whining and screaming?

So this guy is dragging his baby through dense traffic at exhaust-pipe level, eh?

Makes you wonder.

habanero   ·  September 8, 2004 5:44 PM

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