Assigning Blame

Todd, at Clever Cycles, examines the Catholic Church’s recent document on the automobile, “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road.” I left a rather long comment on the post, but I thought I may add to that a bit in this space. Tood is unabashedly anti-car, and like many like-minded folks, sees the car as a root-of-all-evil object–if we only didn’t have cars, the world would be a far greater place. Now, first, let me say that while I am not anti-car, I think that, yes, we might be a bit better off if most of us spent a little less time in a shiny metal box going hither and yon. But, at the end of the day, that is only a drop in the bucket, and sin will find another way to subvert our lives. Todd quotes Ivan Illich’s Energy and Equity in his post, and Illich (while not being anti-car) argues that our tools (i.e. the car) have a usual limit of power–even the most below average car (think Yugo) is still vastly more powerful than it needs to be. This point is well-taken, but Illich was also keenly aware that, for instance, our dependence on the automobile was merely a sympton of a larger disease, not simply a disease unto itself.

And, again, here lies the problem with many of the anti-car crowd–assigning blame. Championing a single cause above all others causes us to become myopic (or, to use another cliché, we have a hammer, so all the world’s a nail). Yes, let’s drive less. Let’s live in neighborhoods where we can walk or bike to work, walk to the store, walk to playground with our kids. And let’s realize that simply not driving or owning a car isn’t the singular solution to our problems. There are deeper problems afoot.