Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Variations on a Theme

Once upon a time in a far distant place, there was a tribe of people that really loved cars. Indeed, some loved cars so much that they even had more than one. Things started to go a bit sour, in this far distant place, when word started to get out that some of these beloved cars were involved in some rather nasty accidents and people sometimes got badly hurt. What to do?

Initially, it seemed, many of the car owners seemed to be content simply ignoring the problem – hoping it would go away. As the number of incidents reported each day continued to increase, ignoring was no longer an option. As the outcry increased, the people demanded their tribal leaders do something. The leaders, ever sensitive to the demands of the crowd, asked for clarification as to what exactly is the problem.

It was at about this same time that a group of the more astute folks began to identify a number of issues. Some of the things they noticed were:

- The large number of “problem cars.” It was noted that many people were not able to get their car do what they wanted it to. Some folks had to make several attempts just to get the car going where they wanted it to go. (This realization sparked a new industry [trainers] dedicated to teaching people how to safely make their cars do what they wanted).

- Many of the more serious injuries were caused by Chev. Pick-up trucks.

- More “accidents” seemed to happen at locations where more of the tribes people tended to congregate.

- Some of the cars were very poorly put together and not properly maintained.

- There was a segment of the tribe that believed it was wrong to own cars.

As pressure mounted to “do something,” the leaders looked at a number of actions. They considered where the accidents happened and decided to limit car access to these areas. This led to the formation of “car parks” these were small enclosed areas (complete with guard rails) where people were free to take their car and drive it in circles for an hour or two. This seemed to help some but the pressure continued so they looked at banning certain makes of cars.

Since many of the injuries were from Chev pick-ups, they decided to ban them. Meantime the trainers were saying there is no need to ban vehicles, people just need to learn how to drive properly. They argued that it is not the vehicle but the driver that needs to be dealt with – punish the bad drivers, they urged. They also pointed out the poorly built and poorly maintained vehicles and said, “someone should do something about that.”

Still the carnage on the roads continued and the experts continued to argue about what the real cause was and what the solution should be. Meantime the group who didn’t think people ought to own cars began to get excited because they could see that in time, they just might get their wish. They would just push for more and more 'vehicle ban' legislation and also push for more and more “No cars allowed” locations. They thought it great that the "experts" couldn’t agree and seemed unable to get over their “pissin’ contest.”

As all this was going on, there was a group that kept asking, “Why not hold people responsible for their actions?” Why not make people prove they can actually drive and if they can, let them take their car in public. If someone can’t demonstrate safe driving, remove them from public areas until they are once again safe.

Others thought this might be a good idea but they had a number of reservations. They wanted to know how they could identify those who qualified to be in public with a car. When the concept of certifying or licensing was floated, they cried “No way, we don’t want the tribal leaders having that kind of bureaucratic power” (they seemed to forget that the leaders were getting set to ban the vehicles.) The most curious objection seemed to come from the trainers: they seemed to be very concerned about their own liability. While they agreed (in principle) that everyone who has a car should learn to drive, they could not agree that the owner should have to demonstrate that they can drive. Curious indeed.

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