Sunday, 2 October 2011

Culture of Victim Blaming and Pre-punishing


The cyclist travels southbound on Aberdeen’s Ashley Road at a speed somewhere between 15 and 18 mph - a usual cruising speed for level-terrain cycling around town. Ashely Road is the type of inner-urban residential street typical in Scotland, characterised by terraced and semi-detached townhouses, small-trader shops and a large primary school. The speed limit on this road is 20 mph. But it is used as a rat-run.

Passing the school, the impatient roar of motor vehicles can be heard behind the cyclist - and then a taxi thunders past, overtaking at excessive speed. Emboldened by the taxi driver’s audacious manoeuvre, the driver of a flat-bed truck decides that he too should also be in front of the cyclist. So sure is he of his right to precede the cyclist that he takes no account of an oncoming vehicle - another cyclist - who is forced to slow down and pull over into the gutter to avoid a head-on collision with this truck travelling at speed on the wrong side of the road. Both motor-vehicles, in their drivers' arrogant haste to stamp their inconsiderate and dangerous precedence on the roadspace are then pictured waiting at a set of traffic lights as the cyclist immediately catches up with and passes them, seconds later.

A couple of years ago a young boy, a pupil at Ashley Road School, was injured quite badly by a similarly inconsiderate and reckless motorist at exactly this spot, travelling at excessive speed outside the school, rat-running between Pitmuxton and Rubislaw. And as the menacing crunch-time graphs ski-jump up, plotting the upward trajectories of oil price, human population, resource depletion, carbon emissions, deforestation, inequality, species extinctions and global heat budget - what is the proposed solution - here, in this town - to the harm caused by inappropriate motoring in inner-urban residential areas near schools? Unsurprisingly, the response which is regarded as “common sense” in this town is a proliferation of pedestian-restricting railings, behind which our children are taught that the outside world is a dangerous and frightening place. Everything is done to accommodate the convenience of motor-traffic, all the while impinging on the convenience of pedestrians, eroding the utility of other modes of transport and extinguishing the right of children to behave as children.

But worse even than all this, only in Aberdeen could a situation of psychogeographcal false consciousness exist to such a high state that it leads to the invention of the “Walkodile”. Check it out:

Walkodile: It's a kind of rigid tethering system for small children. A sort of sick plastic-spined victim-prepunishing chain gang. Just because motorists can't be trusted to behave themselves around schools.

Astonishing. So, rather than consider motor-traffic management policies along principles of shared space or filtered permeability - restricting the unhindered high-speed movement of motor traffic along residential roads where primary schools and community facilities are situated - we are presented instead with measures and systems which restrict the movement of children. Rather than address the issue of irresponsible and uncivilised motorist behaviour around schools, we have this alienating response based upon rules and restrictions which pre-punish potential victims. This locally invented “Walkodile” is particularly execrable, resembling - actually no: replicating - as it does a chain gang for pre-teens. Locking them together in shackles, wearing high-vis sashes, restricting free movement, reinforcing the message that going outside is a dangerous and special activity, something which requires special planning, special clothing, special equipment and special permission. This teaches children that being outside is not something you can do independently; you are required to be part of a team which is tethered in a rigid and arbitrary hierarchy. Moreover, it conditions these kids that they will, for the rest of their lives, be constrained and chained. Freedom but a dream, they will be forever forced into rigid and arbitrary hierarchies, ordered where to go and when to go there. And this lesson will be forced upon the coming generation of Aberdonians from their pre-school days - by the time they are ready to join the workforce they will be pre-conditioned for unquestioning obedience. Indeed, they will have become dependent upon the constraints and chains which were put upon them from their earliest memory. They will be unquestionably and unquestioningly ready to service capital in the pursuit of endless economic growth. And that's all that really matters in this town, isn't it?

We hope that the business behind the “Walkodile” fails, and we hope that anyone who has invested in it suffers the humiliating loss of their capital. Below is a video of the inventor demonstrating her "product" and attempting to explain herself. If it were up to us she would be prosecuted and jailed. But then, she's already a hopeless prisoner of her own world-view, isn't she?



Edit - update.

Hoho, the inventors of the Walkodile are now promoting the "Walkodile Song" which bears an astonishing similarity to those songs sung in the 'call out and reply' style by chain gangs, cotton-picking slave teams and yolked together galley-slaves. Coincidence?

No comments: