What Driving Says About Us

I just finished reading an article by David Brooks titled, "How Would Jesus Drive."  Brooks is often known for his political commentary, but over the years has written about social, cultural, and psychological dimensions.  I have enjoyed his books, "The Social Animal" (2011), "The Road to Character" (2015) and "Bobos in Paradise" (2000).

In this recent column he talks about how driving shows our character; he states: "Driving means making a thousand small moral decisions: whether to tailgate to push the slowpoke faster, or to give space; whether to honk only as a warning or constantly as your all-purpose show of contempt for humanity."  He states: "BMW drivers are much less likely to break for pedestrians at crosswalks. Prius drivers in San Francisco commit more traffic violations. People who think they are richer or better than others are ruder behind the wheel."  Finally he points out: "In short, driving puts you into social situations in which you have to co-construct a shared culture of civility, and go against your own primeval selfishness and it does so while you are encased in what is potentially a 4,000 pound metal weapon."

Brooks points out that driving is governed by laws, but it is also shaped by norms.  It creates an expectation, a communal disposition, so if you are exposed to aggressive driving, you become aggressive.

There is certainly something to be said about all of this.  We all know the headaches associated with rush-hour driving; and in some places, rush hour seems to be every hour.  So we find ourselves doing things that might be horrific in other circumstances, but we think it is ok, a sort of law of the jungle.

Further, as the public discourse becomes more aggressive and bully-oriented (just listen to our elected leaders) we can easily take this to the roads.  In fact we already have with continued incidents of "road rage" and the like.  So the next time you are behind the wheel, think about all of this.  How would Jesus handle driving in this day and age?