Before I wrote last Thursday’s post about Critical Mass, I knew it would not be popular, and thought about it long and hard.
I could write posts saying all cyclists are saints, all cops are bastards, and all motorists are morons. A large majority of readers would cheer, saying halleluiah and amen Brother Dave. The blogosphere is full of such posts.
However, would it make anyone think, or try to see the other side’s point of view? If I start tailoring my posts to try to please everyone, in the end I will please no one. Least of all please myself.
Not everyone was critical, and some realize my aim is to get past this “Them and us” attitude; try to see the other man’s viewpoint. We all have to coexist using the same roads, taking the stance that we have a right to be here, and you can go fuck yourself, serves no useful purpose.
Many have said Critical Mass is not a protest but a celebration of cycling. Why then do you celebrate during rush hour on a Friday evening, why not on a weekend?
Is cycling less fun on the weekend? I believe the real fun comes from the sense of power, brought about by causing the maximum disruption to the lives of other people. Sticking it to the motorist.
Probably the single most point I was criticized on in last Thursday’s post, was the fact that I chose not to come down hard on the New York cop who pushed the cyclist from his bike.
Those of us, who have reached a certain age, remember how things were, which in a way trivializes what is happening today.
As a young man in the 1950s, I was waiting on a London street for a girl friend; we were going to the movies. A police officer came along and told me to move. When I protested and told him I was waiting for my date, he punched me in the face.
Fast forward to last Thursday when I viewed the video of the NY cop pushing the guy from his bike, I simply saw it as a cop doing what cops do. My thoughts were “Big deal, I got punched in the face just for standing on the street.” I never said it was right, or said I supported with what he did.
If I was that bike rider I probably would have slowed down and waited until the cop had crossed the street, rather than try to ride past him. Like dealing with a mad dog, the sensible thing to do is stay clear and don’t make eye contact.
Times change, but the memories stay. Some readers may, and others may not remember the civil rights movement and the Vietnam Protests of the 1960s and 1970s. There is plenty of footage on U-Tube, like this one from Chicago, in 1968.
After viewing this, don’t you think people who were actually there in 1968, would look at the NY bike incident, and like me say, “At least the cop didn’t beat the guy with his Billy Club.”
Some may ask what does this have to do with Critical Mass? It has everything to do with it. Because of people like these protesters back in the 1960s, who faced severe police brutality, they paved the way for people to even hold an event like Critical Mass. I am telling you for sure, Critical Mass would never have been tolerated in 1968.
Freedom is not a God given right; there is nothing “given” about it. It was fought for, worked for, and earned; not only in foreign wars, but on streets of US cities like Chicago. Freedom is a delicate balance, and there are trade offs.
There was a time when people could leave their doors unlocked, and there was no need to lock your car or your bike when you parked it. We no longer have that freedom, that is, if we value our property. Crime increases because individual freedoms are for everybody, good and bad, and the police are not supposed to discriminate.
Criminals abuse these freedoms to further their own ends. While I am not going so far as to say Critical Mass participants are criminals, I would question whether they are abusing their freedom, and doing so at the expense of another’s freedom.
Like an individual’s freedom to get home from work on a Friday evening instead of sitting in traffic while a bunch of cyclists, exercise their right to have fun.
Freedom is often taken for granted, along with sliced bread and air-conditioning. Those of us who have lived without these luxuries, see events and freedom from a different viewpoint.