Rants and Raves

1. When I drive the speed limit through the residential neighborhoods near where I live in New Jersey, people honk at me and give me the finger.

2. I sympathize with bicyclists who complain that drivers don’t treat them with enough courtesy on the roads. But if bicyclists want to be treated “like cars,” then they should not run red lights and stop signs, turn from the wrong lanes, ride between cars, etc.

3. The other day I was riding in a bus, sitting behind two medical school students fresh from their hospital shift, still in their scrubs. They were rather obnoxiously laughing and making jokes about the patients they had seen that day. Maybe not all your patients have high IQs, and maybe some of them are somewhat superstitious about medicine, but they still deserve more respect than that.

4. A woman on a train I was taking recently was loudly regaling the person next to her—and everyone else in the car—about her sexual exploits. The graphic detail was astonishing; I have never heard someone speak so openly, proudly, and profanely about such intimate details. Other passengers in the car pretended not to hear her, even including some parents with small children. What a sad scene all around.

5. Finally, on a more serious note: Moral outrage is a scarce resource, and it should therefore be preserved and allocated appropriately. The more it is used, the less effective it will be. So, if, for example, you are going to suggest that a person is like a Nazi war criminal, or that a policy is reminiscent of Nazi Germany, remember that what the Nazis did was actually kill people. Lots of them. They did not just dislike people; they did not just inconvenience people; they did not just disrespect people or fail to accord them the regard appropriate to their inherent dignity. They rounded people up and killed them. You dishonor, disrespect, and demean the memories of the victims of the Holocaust when you suggest that anything short of literally mass-killing people is “like” what happened during the Holocaust.

11 thoughts on “Rants and Raves

  1. I hope this is not simply a repeat but I did say concerning your “outrage” at the act of trivializing the Holocaust: “Right On”.

  2. “You dishonor, disrespect, and demean the memories of the victims of the Holocaust when you suggest that anything short of literally mass-killing people is “like” what happened during the Holocaust.”

    I agree, but I wonder where the boundary on “Nazi” comparison should really lie, and how to work around the limitation. Is literally every tyrannical injustice perpetrated by the Fourth Reich save actual mass murder immune from comparison for eternity? Or should folks who want to criticize dig for a less obnoxious historical comparison even if it means that few or none of their audience get the reference? Appealing to innate sense of justice only goes so far, especially when expressing concern for the treatment of out-groups: for instance, referencing the purge of the Huguenots will probably cause more head-scratching than sympathy. Essentially, though, people who invoke the comparison have either capitulated their argument or simply aren’t aware of Godwin. If the general public had any sense of history, the rhetorical comparison of contemporary abuse to historical events would be much more effective.

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  4. I rise to record my complete agreement, especially with No. 2. And, furthermore, to admit, with no small amount of shame, that I frequently fantasize about strolling around while wearing hockey elbow pads, to facilitate the unseating of passing bicyclists.

  5. As a bicyclist, I will obey the rules off the road WHEN drivers have enough courtesy not to run me off road (because they are too lazy to get their fat ass out of bed 5 minutes earlier to have enough time to make it to work), give me enough room to operate my bike safely (I ride in the middle of the road BECAUSE if I ride to the right cars will leave me NO room should I need to avoid an obstacle). I could go on and on, but I ride the way I do to be safe. Drivers don’t like too bad, learn the rules of the road, when you drive like a bike is not a vehicle – you are broke the law first.

    I have a neighbor who is very timid on his bike, he has been hit twice seriously in the past 2 years. I ride like an asshole – I have been safe for over 7.

  6. I cycle to work too. Riding in the middle of the lane is fine. Pointing firmly where you are going and making sure drivers know it is well & good. But I agree with OP that running lights and cutting between cars is unsafe as well as illegal.

  7. I actually do a fair bit of cycling myself. I have no problem with occupying space in a lane. I have never been struck by a vehicle, but I have come very close several times—especially by city buses!

    My objections instead were to cyclists not following the rules of the road: not signaling, running red lights, cutting between cars, etc. That makes them a menace, and I think it might have the perverse effect of angering drivers to the extent that they give us less space and latitude.

  8. What cyclists sometimes forget is that it is very hard for normal people (i.e., those without unusually good depth perception) to judge distance accurately. When I drive by a cyclist on a two-lane highway, I find that it is very hard to tell how far the cyclist is from the right side of my car–6 feet? 4 feet? 2 feet? 6 inches? Thus, it seems like it is in the best interest of both the cars and cyclists for the cyclist to stay as far over on the shoulder as possible. They often don’t.

    Thus I find driving by cyclists nerve-wracking. Once when I drove by a team of cyclists on a narrow 2-lane road in the DC area, my anxiety turned to anger when I noticed that on the other side of the road there was a bike path!

  9. The vision thing is a catch-22, b/c you’re harder to see if you’re on the edge of the road, and drivers will also try to pass you without changing lanes. Riding about a third of the way into the lane forces drivers to change lanes to pass, giving you a wider berth. (I do ride on the shoulder if it’s very wide & cars can safely pass in their own lane.) Here’s an interesting discussion about “claiming the lane,” with strong opinions on both sides expressed in the comments:
    http://commutebybike.com/2008/03/18/top-5-reasons-to-claim-the-lane-and-why-its-safer/

  10. I am very interested in point #3. It was also discussed in one of my new favorite blogs, youarenotsosmart.com. This entry focuses on The Just-World Fallacy. Essentially, people tend to blame the victim because they think and hope that the world is fair. If the world is fair, then there is some reason, for instance, that hospitalized individuals became afflicted.

    The following is an excerpt from the aforementioned blog:

    “[Melvin] Lerner based these studies on the things he had seen working with the mentally ill. He noticed how he and other doctors, nurses and orderlies would sometimes insult people who were suffering or come up with assumptions about what kind of people they were, or joke about their illness.” – David McRaney

    If this is true, perhaps the reason that your company on the bus was so disrespectful was because they are too optimistic about the universe’s fairness, right?

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