Friday, May 21, 2010


Here's the deal:

I've had to walk a fine line for a long time, because I co-own a bike-based business, about my feelings on bicycle advocacy and the efforts to chip away at car culture and car-centric infrastructure. Last year I had a bit of a crisis of confidence in my local bike advocacy organization, a group I'd supported for years with my time and money; and it got bad enough that I sat down recently with a fellow at their office to discuss my feelings about politics and bicycle transportation. The discussion ended with his hope that I would eventually return to the organization and resume my paid membership. I made no promises other than to go home and think about it very, very hard.

Here's where I stand with myself these days.

Basically, I've had to spend a lot of time acting as though I am a "mature" adult, one who recognizes -- and acccepts -- the very slow pace of change. I've had to spend a lot of time and energy pretending that I am always willing to take the measured response, to consider the "politic" thing to do.

Looking "mature" benefits me socially and professionally. Unfortunately, it doesn't do a damned thing for my sense of truth, or for my soul.

Because when push comes to shove, in my heart of hearts I am impatient as hell. I want the car culture to fall down tomorrow, and I no longer care who knows it. I want the end of single-occupant vehicles, and the end of suburbs that force us to drive 30 or 40 miles to get to a job. I want the end of plastic food produced in a factories thousands of miles away rather than grown in local community gardens and on nearby farms; and an end to clothing made in China by poverty-wage workers and shipped overseas, instead of sewn by us at the kitchen table. I want the end of over-programmed childrens' schedules that force us to schlep the kids all over hither and yon, and jobs that require so much of our time away from our homes, gardens and families that we no longer have time to live as deliberately as our great-grandparents did.

It is time, past time, to live deliberately again.

Expanding this vision, I recognize that so much of how we live -- what we eat, the clothes we wear, how we educate our children and make a living for ourselves and our families -- depends on a car-centric infrastructure. If it all falls down, the way we live will change radically. There will be a time of difficult and even painful adjustment, and not all of us will survive the transition. But -- and this is the thing -- we will ALL have to learn to live on less, much less, sooner or later. If not today or tomorrow, then in the next year, or five years, or ten. Anyone in denial of this is simply refusing to see how things will go. And if I sound more and more like "one of those crackpot Peak Oil folks", well, maybe it's because I recognize that they're at least partly right. And I am willing to consider the possibility of my early demise as a byproduct of the radical change that our society will have to undergo when things run out, when resources grow more scarce and a global marketplace is no longer so easy or cheap tp prop up.

So today I can say that I am pretty much running out of patience for the mature, measured, politic response, especially when it comes to dismantling the car-centric infrstraucture that has ruled the roost for nearly a century. The politic approach is far too slow, far too safe and careful, and tries too hard to avoid pissing off the people in power. I no longer have the patience to worry about pissing off the people in power. As far as I'm concerned, they can take their suits and their precious on-street parking and, in the parlance of my ancestors, go pound sand.

The problem with having radical vision -- with being able to see very, very far into a future that you want so badly -- is that the farther you can see, the less patience you have for the process of getting there. That's the price I pay for having this radical vision. So if I sound at times like an impatient teenager, that's why. And that's why I probably won't renew my membership in my local bike advocacy organization anytime soon. It's not them, it's me. I just can't slow down my vision enough to be content with what I see as total-bullshit, snail's-pace advocacy. I'll leave that grind to the politicos who have the patience for it, and who can take heart in the tiny victories that are some small positive gain but, frankly, not nearly enough.

I'll just keep riding my bicycle, trying my best to live more deliberately, and hoping that someone else will take notice and begin to grow their own radical vision of a better future.


rickrise said...

Right on, Beth Hamon!!!!

Harry H said...

I like your moxy.

Bill Gibson said...

Me three. I'm impatient with myself, my body, my students, the world. But, that's four. I realize, also, the gulf between what I see coming and what most folks imagine their future to be is getting wider.

jmaus said...

Wow Beth, you really hit on many of the feelings I've been having lately too. I've been thinking a lot about rate-of-change lately.

I share your frustration and impatience... and I've expressed it to people who are shocked when I do so... and who reply by saying things like, "come one, we're doing much better than we used to be doing, calm down Jonathan!"

thanks for sharing this.

jhaygood said...

YES!!!! Oops, sorry, that was immature. said...

with you 100%. things aren't going to change from the top down here (until impending collapse), they are only going to change as individual people decide to live differently.

Caroline said...

That's fine to say.. I say things like this all the time, mostly to piss off my mother (who is very smug about her biodiesel VW), and inadvertently pissing off friends. It's the "be the change you wish to see," and the only healthy way to live it is to change your vision to create a realistic goal. See only the community around you, and choose that community.

I'm (not very) sure equally discouraging, disheartening, disillusioning things were happening all over the world 200 years ago, only we didn't have to hear about it all the time. Shut your ears, shut your laptop, and just enjoy your surroundings. I'm sure if you live the way you say you do, they're pretty neat. And you're inspiring other people, as well as reminding others (like me) that they're not alone. Hear hear!

aba1102 said...

Very well put. I just want the car culture to die so my wife will drive less.

inkandpen said...

I've been contemplating this very thing, especially these last few days, weeks maybe. I've decided that I need to split my attentions between the slow, political, awful, plodding big-picture work and the deliberate, beautiful, graceful (more or less) local work-- without the first I feel doomed, but without the second I feel hopeless.

Thanks for shouting this. Shouting is good.

Stonehog said...

Beth - I'm with ya. The car culture WILL die, but it will take a lot of business and "comfort" with it. It will be due to some economic factor like the impending big crash, and when oil gets too expensive, and jobs are too scarce, we'll have less drivers. People are lazy. They will get on the bikes when they have to. Folks like us do it for our own reasons.