Month: September 2019

The banality of the killing fields

With credit to Hannah Arendt

On Saturday 31 August, Pat went to his favourite pub, the Molly Bloom on Kingsland Road in Dalston, for his regular lunchtime pint. At 13:00, he left the pub heading back home; Pat, 69 was the victim of a stroke a few years ago and one side of his body had limited mobility. As a consequence he used a crutch to walk. He was also in the habit of pushing a wheel chair, in case he got tired and needed a rest.

He started crossing Kingsland Road but never made it to the other side. A lorry driver didn’t see him and killed him.

The crash is under investigation; we don’t know how the driver, on a Roman-like road without a bend for several kilometres, failed to see a disabled man pushing a wheel chair crossing the road right in front of him.

We talked to some of the publicans at the Molly and the quotes sounded familiar but were nevertheless shocking:

“He stepped out without looking; it was his habit; we kept on telling him not to do it, but he would not listen; he always used to come out of the pub with his wheelchair and just start crossing the road. Like he didn’t care.”

“But how did the driver not see him?”

“I don’t know; I was inside, I didn’t see it. The driver could have been looking right or left”

“But should he not be looking ahead of him?”

Shrug of shoulders. “It is very sad, but he always did that: just crossed the road looking ahead; he didn’t care”

Maybe Pat didn’t care, or maybe he did; maybe he cared to show that he did not want to be cowed into submission by a culture that made him second class, not because of his disabilities, but because he could not or did not want to drive.

I left the pub asking myself: how could these people, who have spent many hours together with Pat, blame him for being killed? The answer is well known: they have been brainwashed by a society that instills in all citizens the concept that roads are designed for people who drive; people walking and cycling are lower class and must defer to the powerful drivers. Pat challenged the powerful and he was rightly killed.

This fascist attitude has been inculcated in people’s mind for decades, most notably by the Government’s Think! campaign, a poster child for victim blaming.

Screenshot 2019-09-15 at 00.31.39.png

Outside the pub, a few metres south, half of the pavement and half the carriageway was cordoned off for repairs. The people working at the site had parked their van on a double red line in a way that obscured the view to anyone wishing to cross the road; and many people were doing just that.

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I approached the manager of the team and pointed out the danger of their van.

“We have to park it somewhere”

“I understand but the way you have parked it, it is creating a visual obstruction for people who want to cross.”

“They should not be crossing here. There is a signaled crossing 100m up the road.”

“But people do cross here because they want to get to the station. A pensioner was killed at this very spot”

“Yes, but he was disabled”

“So disabled people who cross the road deserve to die?”

“No, but he shouldn’t have crossed here, it is not legal”

“Excuse me, but where does it say that it is illegal to cross the road here?”

“Well, we have to park it somewhere” We were entering a loop.

Difficult to reason with people who have been zombified. We tweeted the image above, pointing out the danger, and thankfully the Mayor of Hackney promised to raise the issue with TfL. The next day, the van was parked elsewhere.

(1) Mayor of Hackney on Twitter_ _@V0LDN @BrendaPuech @willnorman @MBCyclingTM I've already been in

This fascist mindset is also prevalent among the Council Officers to whom Glanville should be providing guidance. Take our request to put two zebra crossings on Lee St, a rat run just one kilometre south of the fatal collision. One would be in front of Haggerston Overground Station, and the second at the entrance of a local park which every afternoon teems with children; the gate is at a dangerous T-junction with unpredictable vehicular movements.

One would think that officers would judge whether citizens safety would be improved by these zebra crossings.

Wrong! The priority for the Hackney Officers is to limit the inconvenience to people who choose to drive, i.e. the people who choose to poison and endanger the children playing in the park and the citizens who use public transport. Here is the response we have received from Andy Cunningham, Head of Streetscene at Hackney Council:

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In other words the Council adopts some form of mathematical bullshit, and tells us that the zebras are not justified. Officers have spent considerable time and money to measure traffic data, and plugged it in a formula designed to say No.

If the officers had not been zombified, they would have spent thirty minutes at 16:00 at the gate of the park and they would have realised that the crossing is hazardous especially given the high number of young children using it, the volume of drivers using the road as a rat run and the difficulty in predicting turns at the junction.

If the officers had not been zombified, they would understand the fascist nature of their decision process: provision of safety to ordinary citizens has to surpass an impossible hurdle in order not to inconvenience the chosen race: motorists.

But this is the essence of the Banality of Evil: people just doing their job, their mind impregnated by an evil meme, namely that drivers are more important citizens.

We hope that the Mayor of Hackney understands the importance of his role and starts to cleanse the officers from this evil ideology, and understands that people like Pat don’t deserve to die just because they choose to cross the road where it is convenient to them and not where it is convenient to those who poison us.

 

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