Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mary Poppins isn't joking, Mark Webber.

From "The Age", March 30, 2010:

Frankly Mark Webber and other selfish hotheads suffering "mindslips"

need to be called to book about Road Laws. ("Mark Webber takes swipe at Australian nanny state" The Age, 28/3)

When Mark was born in 1976, 3,583 died on the road across Australia.
That's 5.4 deaths per 10,000 vehicles. or 25.5 fatalities per 100,000 population. 
Imagine Whittlesea or Numurkah vanishing without trace, Mark.

When serious injury figures were  first differentiated in 1980, 32,054
people suffered something between broken bones, brain injury or
Quadraplegia, or anything that required at least a night in hospital.

When Mark got his licence in perhaps 1993, "only" 1,953 died  but
21,557 were seriously injured  1.9 deaths per 100,00 vehicles.

As of September 2009, 1,136 people died nationally. 
Is say,  Mount Macedon enough of a price for you doing as you want, Mark?

The Economic cost of this runs into the billions, the depth of grief
and broken lives can't be guessed at.

Mary Poppins didn't get those figures down, Mark. Tough laws,
enforcement and Education campaigns did.

A Driver's License is privilege not a right and the law, which is
there for a reason (at least 32,054 reasons) applies to you too, Mark
Webber.
Road Deaths statistics linked at bottom of post.

I've heard  a lot of anger lately, some major, some minor; a lot of it infused by fear and ignorance and often wilfully blind selfushness about a lot of topics, from Health care to Speed Cameras to Ticket Evasion,  but when Mark Webber made this amazigly boneheaded comment I had to say I was livid. I suspect Mark may have spent some time in A&E/Casulaty rooms as I have, perhaps he hasn't yet had to deliver a eulogy over a road accident victim.

Perhaps he, in his split second job, hasn't developed the habit of deliberating, of  thinking things through.

Perhaps he, like others I have experience of, has fallen victim to the cult of fame and hs feet have come off the ground, connection to the workaday and the more mundane has loosened the bond of empathy and community.

Perhaps he, similarly, feels free of or has been isolated from, through his success, the invisible and gentle correctives human society has long provided or more recently developed: family, work, law, what I call community narrative - the stories of example we relate and tell one another, through written or oral tradition, the reflections of ourselves and thse close on how we live.

I've seen it happen, you've seen it happen: the Annointed  come to brook no contradiction or sadly are not contradicted by those around them, the dazzled, the fearful, the obedient, or the sycophant.

In these days, as the saying goes "a lie is halfway round the world before the truth gets its boots on" is not only true its dangerous; the need to speak truth to power or simply "Call "Bullshit!" " on nonsense and do it fast enough to matter has never been more urgent.

Society and the things we value about it  have to be defended when they're challenged and Mark, in all likelihood unintentionally, created a situation where like humans often do, abstract important concepts to such an extent that they are nullified, denied or denuded of value or otherwise de-legitimized. That's why I wrote the letter above.

Jeremy Bentham wrote of "the greatest good for the greatest number" and his protege J.S. Mill, who was a resolute champion of personal liberty  and sovereignty agreed with the sole caveat that liberty  should be constrained only when "self-protection" of the community was necessary in order to "prevent harm to others"


That's not to say that inane law and regulation doesn't exist; it does in every juridiction, but the burden of complexity, technology and the sheer speed of life, change and interactions between ourselves, each other and the world about us falls heavily on us and law is just one of many ways we establish protocols and standards to try to make life go easier in hopefully a clear and fair way.

Road laws and laws concerning crimes against the person and property are  common examples of these. Generally speaking, laws that work for society survive and these have. They are one of many summations and expressions  and gifts of our community's experience, to each other, generation to generation over time.

Our lawmakers muddle through, bumpily but more often than not they get it right, importantly as Mill advocates these laws and those that enact them are balanced by constitutional checks and political immunities or rights.


A lot of  what is blamed on the "the Nanny State" is in fact commercially driven in origin outside the Guv'mint; the cost of risk managemnt and hedging of risk by insurance underwriters spiralled; that saw an explosion in Public Liability after 9/11 led to streetside cub scouts and School cake stalls needing Food Safety Licenses and other such inanities. Even Government has to insure against risk, jut like us.

Osama Bin Laden in a very real way, killed your kid's lemonade stand.


So Mark did us all a service, causing the community to pause and reflect and perhaps re-emphasize, re-evaluate and and re-commit to  the values and hopes enshrined in those road laws;

Through laws like these we say to one another: your life matters to me and to us, we've seen what can happen, so this is what we think is wise for now.

We should listen to that whisper the next yellow light we see or think of John Donne at our next Traffic Island as not all drivers were created equal.

Perhaps the Road Laws are not a statement of tyranny, but one of love.


Traffic Figures extracted from  ATSB Road Deaths Series summary from 1925.
September 2009 Roads Deaths Australia

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