There is a saying credited to the founder of the Jesuit order, Ignatius Loyola, about the impressionability of children. “Give me a child till he is seven years old and I will show you the man,” he said.
I have been saying for many years that the Loyolas of our times have sought to sever the strong association that once existed between kids and cars, in order to arrive at a time when a whole generation of young people are indifferent to cars. In order to prevent them from ever realizing how freeing it is to drive a car.
They have worked on this subtly – and very effectively.
One method, hugely successful, was to use the pretext of “concern” for the “safety” of kids – other people’s kids, mind you – to wheedle into the law child safety seat requirements for all kids.
All the way through early adolescence.
What impression do you suppose has been made on kids who grew up strapped in whenever they were taken for a ride in a car? Do you think it felt liberating for them to be restrained? But they might have been hurt otherwise! The same might used to urge people to “mask.” Even more restraining – and humiliating.
The lesson was imparted that cars are dangerous rather than liberating. Things to be feared rather than loved. A lesson repeated, over and over, each time they saw their parents “buckling up” for “safety.”
Not that seatbelt-wearing is a bad thing, as such. It is not. But the religious wearing of – the nimbus of almost-sinfulness for not wearing – is. It was also a psychological predicate for “masking” – which probably never would have taken hold so almost-universally if so many people had not already been conditioned to religious seatbelt wearing (and safety seat using) by the same forces whose goal has never been “safety” but rather to use that coy catch-call as the means to inculcate a dreary (and religious) deference to their relentless controlling of us.
Cars, themselves, have become – in the main – as exciting as washing machines. Also because of them – and also in the name of “safety,” which has resulted in their having become homogenous – and expensive – appliances. There is nothing to them, most of them, in terms of emotional appeal.
They are too “safe.” Too easy.
Can you push a button, move a lever and push down on a pedal? Then you can “drive.” You can also probably take an elevator up three floors. Per Franklin – that which we obtain to cheap we esteem too little.
You teach a kid how to drive a car that has a manual transmission. Do that and I will show you the man (or woman) who will always feel something liberating about cars.
My sister’s kid – my niece – proved to be wonderfully impressionable. Thirty minutes of behind the wheel – of a Mazda Miata, six speed stick, top down in a church parking lot – undid the impressions made by the previous 17 years of child seat restraining and buckle-up pieties. She may continue to buckle up, but that is beside the point. The buckling-up is now incidental to the point, which is that she has discovered she likes to drive. That a car like the Miata is a lot of fun to drive.
I sat beside her and explained the relationship between spinning flywheel, left foot and right hand. But understanding didn’t happen until she felt it, herself – that same feeling all of us probably felt the first time we walked upright, wobbly at first perhaps, but with growing confidence. Some trepidation, always present when a challenge is. Not quite right, just yet. Clutch out, too slow – accelerator pedal down, too fast. That strange smell, never smelt before but never to be forgotten now.
Next try, clutch released too fast, not enough revs. A stall. Take a breath. Let’s try that again. This time, I’ll use the Miata’s emergency brake to keep the car from rolling backward, so don’t worry about that. Let the clutch out gradually, until you feel it grabbing, can hear the change in pitch of the engine. Okay. Now give it some gas. Now some more – but not too much.
I let off the emergency brake a bit, she can feel the car moving forward.
It’s rolling now. Let off the clutch, but gradually! Yes! Eureka! I could see her understanding dawn. The huge smile one her face telegraphed it. She got it. A thing she would never forget, for the rest of her life. We stopped and started again, many times. Each time, she got smoother, better.
In no time at all, she was upshifting to second. By this time, she was almost autocrossing the Miata, figure-eighting it around the empty lot. This was more than just driving. It was having fun driving. The thing those things who understand how dangerous it is – to the things – for people to have fun driving have been working so hard to stamp out. Chiefly by making sure it never happens in the first place.
Then it’s easy for the things.
It is why so many young people my niece’s age haven’t got licenses yet, even after they are eligible to get them. It is why so many don’t care about cars – not comprehending what cars mean.
Never having learned.
I made it a point to teach my niece what they mean. And now, she knows. The first thing she did when we got home was get online to begin the process of getting her license. But she’s already gotten something much more than that.
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