I’ve been looking at Dawn Foster‘s brilliant blogs, including the excellent A Hundred and One Wankers in which she chronicles, with the help of a Google map, the precise abuse which she receives as she cycles around London. Or did, until the ‘greatest wanker of them all’ pinched her bike outside the Beckton Asda. ( I remember the Asda when we lived there twenty-five years ago, before Beckton had an infrastructure and we walked down to Custom House to go to Mass and get the train to work.)
Anyway, though I don’t get as much specifically sexist abuse as Dawn (probably because I look like the abusers’ mums), M and I both get our share of close shaves and moronic motorists. On Sunday afternoon, as I was cycling to The Graan, a young boy racer overtook me, threw a glass bottle out of his window (fortunately he didn’t have a passenger who might have had a better aim) and, as it smashed on the road beside me, stuck his arm out of the window with fist clenched in triumph.
Then there was this peculiar piece in the usually emollient Irish Times, bemoaning the fact that, while drivers suffer the indignity of ‘inappropriate speed checks on dual carriageways’, cyclists are permitted to ride about helmetless with impunity. (Bike helmets are, by the way, thankfully not yet compulsory in Ireland.)
What is it about cyclists that inspires such disproportionate ire? True, some are annoying, but surely not so much as white van drivers or those elderly men in hats who hog the fast motorway lanes? Dawn Foster’s other blog (see above) and Oliver James’s book The Selfish Capitalist: Origins of Affluenza
which I’m currently reading, gave some possible clues. Foster writes about the extraordinarily virulent ‘anti-scrounger’ hysteria whipped up by our nice new government with its cuddly Lib Dem accessories while James analyses the emotional distress which accompanies relative materialism (as distinct from the logical materialism that results from not having enough money to buy your next meal). It occurs to me that it’s basically about ensuring that everyone is playing the game: clambering up the career ladder, ditto the property one (isn’t it odd how the housing benefit screeches were directed towards the powerless tenants rather than the landlords who actually profit from extortionate rents?) and surrounding oneself with shiny bits and pieces. And cars, owned and driven, are perfect playing pieces, being so homogenous and easily confused (it’s as hard to recognize which silver hatchback is yours in the car park as to remember whether you chose yellow or blue for the current round of Ludo).
And so anyone who doesn’t play properly (good job, owned house, new car) is consquently suspect, however otherwise dull or unexceptional. And that explains why, other than the token grumble, no one really minds that the bankers have conned us out of more money than we can even imagine and are continuing to do so; at least they played the game, even if they cheated. Or, since no one is quite sure of the rules once the banker is allowed to use the whole cash supply plus whatever he invents (imagine Monopoly with that variation) perhaps they haven’t cheated at all, just played the game really, really well.
And then I cheered myself up entirely by watching The Story Of The Weeping Camel [DVD] which reminded me that the world is full of people who have no idea about the game and for whom even my bike would be an object of fascinated humour. Watch it, and be filled with joy (though you might weep even more than the camel).