Because you’re worth it

“The changes that we desire for the world can only begin with what we are willing to do in our own lives.” – James Keye

The above quote comes from an essay entitled Tyranny of Convenience by James Keye it is one of the inspirations behind the title of this blog.  Another phrase in Keye’s essay is “the hopelessness of an effortless life” a theme we’ll return to as we draw the connections between owning and using our car and our addiction to convenience.  How, in our efforts to avoid effort, we sacrifice our health and wellbeing and that of our environment.  Perhaps more usefully we’ll also be documenting and ruminating on the positive effects of not owning a car.  This is not an anti-car blog – I love cars!  If it’s anything it’s a pro-active transport/anti-sedentary blog – but that’s not a very snappy title is it?

So what do you think of our little middle-class crusade so far?  Do you think it’s just another case of the petty bourgeoisie on the latest hobby horse to assuage our First World guilt?

Or do you reckon that we might be just like you and making small steps in the right direction?  Putting good intentions into a little worthy action.  We’re already reaping a little reward too.

Possibly most importantly, we’re not alone.

In fact, there are quite a few other blogs about rejecting our disposable, inauthentic and unsustainable societies in general and going car-free in particular.  We’ve got a reading list as long as our arm and we’ll tell you about some of the blogs we like and why we dig them, as we go along. Here’s some that we have already checked out that got us going.

  • Carbusters is the quarterly journal of the World Car Free Network and they publish a thoughtful blog as well.
  • A lot of people have said to us, “but isn’t it much harder doing this with a kid?” After all, in this neck of the woods, once one has spawned, it’s more usual to scale up to a people mover than to scale down to a pair of sturdy boots. It’s very early days for us, but we reckon it’s all about not trying to pack too much in, and instead really relishing the stuff you do. There’s a couple of blogs out there, both called Car Free with Kids; that agree. Some particularly interesting stuff on how to raise children that love to walk. Car Free with Kids and the other Car Free with Kids.

We’ll also be adding our own Blogroll of useful, interesting and related links in the sidebar as we go along.   These people are making the effort for all of us, even though it’s not convenient.  Why?  The answer is in the title of this post.  And a little effort can go a long way.

As I tell myself when I’m struggling to knuckle down and work on my art – if not now, then when? If not you, then who?

Defying Convenience

I’m not one to generalise, but-

One of life’s most common conveniences is generalising.  We all do it.  I’ve heard it described as an important survival tactic, evolved from years of hunter/gathering.  You see a large predator acting aggressively in a particular way and looking right at you and your buddies minding your own business while stalking the same antelope.  The angry predator suddenly charges at you and you’re now one buddy short of a good hunting party.  You rightly assume that all creatures of this kind pose a potentially mortal threat when on the hunt and avoid future encounters.

Likewise when working in the early community gardens of our ancestors you notice a long, slithery thing that bites a fellow horticultural executive who subsequently develops a bad case of death.  You feel within your moral right to generalise about long, slithery things, especially when elbow deep in the earth.

We generalise and generalise and generalise.  Why?  Why do we still seek to limit our understanding of the world to simplistic, arbitrary categorisation even though the vast weight of collective human history is at our fingertips and our own personal experience and knowledge would confirm what we know in our hearts?  Because it’s convenient.  It’s easier to generalise about people, cultures, races, countries, religions than it is to explain and take into account the myriad, sophisticated nuances of human existence and why bad, weird and random shit just happens – especially when you’re trying to make a particularly spurious point about [insert ethnic minority here] during smoko.

Here’s a few goodies related to the themes of this blog for you to chew over:

  • Cars are bad.
  • People who don’t own cars are good.
  • People who drive are bad.
  • Convenience is bad.

None of these are our assumptions in this blog.  That would be too easy.  Convenience isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  We’re not advocating throwing out our amazing stick blender for example.  But as they say, too much of a good thing…

It can be used as a weapon against us as Kevin E. Abrams suggests in his interesting opinion piece A Tyranny of Convenience (now there’s a good name).

The method by which a corporate or state socialist cartel achieves power is through seducing people into giving up their responsibilities because it is “convenient.” They do this because they understand authority and responsibility go hand-in-hand. By relinquishing our basic responsibilities we forfeit our authority.

In other words, it just makes us lazy.

Racial stereotypes are convenient.  Religious stereotypes are convenient. Mental illness stereotypes are convenient.  Except of course, they aren’t for the millions of people in question.

So do we really want life to be just about the avoidance of effort?

Are we hoping to leave ‘a bit in the tank’ for the last part of the game?

What on earth are we saving ourselves for? From?

Life is effort.  Even avoiding effort takes effort. What I think I’m coming to understand is, you’ve got to love the effort.

Disposable Society

So why not fix her up?

The car I mean.  Peej.  Afterall, this blog is supposedly about getting to the core of something rotten – our addiction to convenience.  The cheap, disposable, lifestyle that doesn’t take the true cost of consumerism into account.

OK, it’s about learning how to cope without a car.  But really, the pains of not having one are surely about the convenience or lack thereof, of being able to, at any time of the day or night, jump into our car and head down to the shop to buy a bottle of milk.  Or take the Bobbin to visit Grilly on the weekends (she’s two buses away).  Or those oft-talked about but not so frequently undertaken, road trips out on the Peninsula.

What about this notion of ‘Freedom’ (with a capital F)?  Or the commonly used ‘Independence’ – given to us at an early age with our first bicycle.  I’ve even heard people talk about their ‘Identity’ being integral to their car ownership.  Ford vs. Holden?  How deep does this go?

So in a society where we buy $5 electric kettles from the House of W (home to all things cheap, imported and nasty); designer coffees in un-recycled paper cups and you can’t find for neither love nor money a little repair shop to fix your electric shaver, let alone tackle it ourselves – why not set an example and keep our cheap, efficient little car on the road?

I mean what kind of car could we expect to get for around a grand anyway?  Probably nothing much more than an excellent opportunity to commit hitherto undreamt of amounts of money into keeping another old machine road-worthy.

Apart from the fact that spending possibly in excess of $1000 right now on repairs just to get the car legal is enough to make me balk at the idea, the mechanic confirms the logic that perhaps sinking $1000 into a 1983 model car, however charming and low ‘mileaged’, might be tying ourselves into a relationship of diminishing returns.  The logic continues that we should cut our losses, save that money and put it towards a new car.  And what do we mean by ‘efficient’ in the first instance?  In relation to what?  Just how ‘efficient’ is a petrol-fired internal combustion engine anyway?  There’s a topic for another post…

So, at the risk of repeating ourselves, this was the rationale behind our current situation – we are consigning the Peej to the great carpark in the sky.  Or perhaps Trademe (overseas readers insert eBay here).  Anyone want an un-warranted 1983 1600cc automatic Toyota Sprinter?