the Disillusioned kid: Break it down now!
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Monday, January 30, 2006

Break it down now!

Yesterday, I pontificated on an article in the Sunday Times, about activist groups deflating the tyres of 4x4s, using the opportunity for a little bit of SUV-bashing of my own. Inexplicably missing from my otherwise masterful critique of the text was any comment on the actual words attributed to the representative voice of British environmentalism. Quoth Sian Berry of the Alliance Against 4x4s on the plan concocted by those crazy continentals:
Our initial reaction was that it’s quite amusing, and clever to have established that they aren’t breaking the law. But if just one person needs to go to hospital in a hurry and their 4x4 has a flat tyre, the joke won’t seem so funny. The campaign will be finished.
Notice what Berry's done there? While ostensibly an opponent of 4x4s, Berry has managed to transform them from an unneccessary, environmentally-destructive, narcissistic, offensive luxury into a neccesity, if only in case of emergency. In the real world an individual faced by the situation Berry sets out has a number of options available to them. They could call an ambulance, which in many areas would arrive with them in minutes, or - horrors! - approach a neighbour for assistance. Berry seems to have bought into the individualist myth - which the producers of 4x4s frequently tap into - that we are all atomised individuals, concerned with nothing but our own narrow self-interest and that we can rely on nobody but ourselves to survive the rough and tumble of the modern world. (In fact, not only are 4x4s not your only safeguard against an untimely death, they may well increase the likelihood of such an eventuality, as Alex explains over at his place.)

This is broadly analagous to those who argue against the depradations of wars while accepting the fundamental right of western governments to dictate the political systems of third world countries. If we buy into the ideology of those we claim to be opposing we've already lost half the battle. In a game where they get to set the rules they have a huge advantage even before we kick-off. This is, I suggest, a widespread problem, and perhaps one I've been guilty of myself and it is probably unfair to pick on the Alliance Against 4x4s, particulalry after yesterday's slagging off. I'm sure they're very nice people and I have no problem with any of their objectives, but grist for the mill is grist for the mill...

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