The Bicycle Is a Mighty Machine (and Metaphor) (January 15, 2011)
The bicycle is both a technological marvel of innovation, efficiency and flexibility, and a metaphor for behavioral, appropriate-technology, opt-in solutions.
The bicycle is both a mighty machine in its own right, and a mighty metaphor for solutions which are already well within our grasp. The debt-dependent Central State/Corporate Cartel Status Quo would have us believe that the 'solution" is always more of everything that just so happens to cement their power over our minds, incomes and lived world.
-- more debt (always more debt, because the flip side of that rising debt is the Power Elites' rising asset base and income stream)
-- more McMansions (to keep the real estate lobby satiated)
-- more roadways (highway lobby)
-- more vehicles (auto lobby)
-- more energy (as long as it's controlled by a politically potent cartel)
-- more technological "solutions" (as long as they are subject to fickle fashion and speedy obsolescence)
-- more exquisitely vulnerable supply chains of the FEW (food, energy, water) essentials (think upside-down pyramid)
-- more commodities (again, controlled by global cartels)
-- more financial "innovations" (Wall Street and banking profits are private, losses are quickly shunted onto the taxpayers by their elected "public servants")
-- more medications (ideally, six or seven per resident above the age of five)
-- more weaponry (again, provided by a cartel with a handy revolving door to the E-ring of the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, etc.)
-- more Central State powers (because we're here to "protect you" from everything and everyone, you poor helpless dearies)
-- more local government (that will be a $850 fine for failing to pay the $850 fee to begin the application process for a permit)
-- more taxes (to pay the debt we're adding at $2 trillion a year to avoid any cuts to the Status Quo)
-- more consumption (of everything)
-- more shopping (see above)
-- more "entertainment" (gladiators, amateur and professional, fashion, celebrity, etc., lest the public's entertainment-addled stupor recede)
-- more bread along with the circuses (more entitlements, giveaways, "benefits," "rights," etc., so the recipients will be quiet and complicit, i,.e. bought off on the cheap)
-- more "novelty" to distract the citizenry from the complete absence of structural innovation
-- more lobbying and campaign contributions (if you want your voice heard, show me the money, honey: a "voice" in D.C. doesn't come cheap)
-- more systemic risks, so the Central State can appropriate more power and divert more of the national income to its favored Corporate Cartels as crises erupt
-- more fat-larded, salt-riddled, sugar-laden "food" that would kill your dog or cat if you were cruel enough to feed it to them regularly
-- more "extend and pretend," more "deny and comply"
-- more substitution of perception (the "recovery") for reality (structural collapse)
-- more lies, misinformation, misdirection, misrepresentions, manipulations, interventions, distortions, Orwell-speak (the "Save the Forest" bill that enables clear-cutting public forests for $1 an acre, the "Borrowers Bill of Rights" written by bank lobbies, etc.), and propaganda, because you can never have too much of a good thing.
The bicycle represents the efficiencies and benefits of using less of everything. A bicycle doesn't become obsolescent, and it is easily repaired. Some parts corrode or break with wear, but they consume a small amount of resources to repair or replace.
A bicycle has a small footprint in every metric: it doesn't take up much space, is easy to store/park, and requires only human muscle and nutrients as fuel. A 1,000 kilocalories will get you far on a bike, while 1,000 kilocalories of petroleum in an SUV might not get you out of the driveway.
A bicycle is accessible to almost everyone. There are bikes designed for disabled people (please see Waterside Workshops for examples), and sturdy tricycles for the elderly who have balancing issues. In other cultures, bicycles are an accepted mode of transport for older people, not just kids.
The bicycle is a mighty machine. It moves goods as well as passengers, all at a very low energy consumption. Thought not quite "all-weather," modest improvements (nacelles, windscreens, etc.) can greatly improve the comfort of bikes in mildly inclement weather.
Riding a bike improves health. Of course there are exceptions--being run down by a fossil-fueled vehicle does not improve your health, and breathing deeply in cities polluted by the burning of coal on a vast scale is also not healthy (but then neither is even living in such cities, never mind the mode of transport).
A bicycle is a relatively easy to repair machine. It lends itself to repair by amateurs and beginners.
A bicycle is flexible. A mountain bike can traverse unpaved gravel roads or paved roadways.
Bicycles are relatively safe when ridden in dedicated lanes and bikeways away from cars, trucks and buses. (Obviously our goal should be to provide more of those safe-riding zones.) Autos kill 40,000 people a year and injure hundreds of thousands more. Bicycles harm few riders or pedestrians. If you fall (assuming you are not elderly) then you will very likely pick yourself back up and continue on.
Bicycles lend themselves to both short trips and intermediate distances. Any city with a radius of 10 kilometers (6 miles) is easily accessible to anyone on a bike (San Francisco hills being an exception).
The bicycle is a metaphor for behavioral solutions to "problems" which are framed as "technological." The auto industry would love to sell us all new vehicles which claim to be 50% more efficient. Simply having two people in a car that usually carries only one person doubles the efficiency of the vehicle without any extra expense or conformity to a global cartel's "solution."
Riding a bike is a way of improving health without medications, procedures and paperwork. Once again it is a metaphor for all the simple behavioral things that can be done to improve and build health that do not requires $900,000 machines, $5,000 tests, or billion-dollar programs. The same metaphor applies to the entire economy.
We have been effectively brainwashed to only see advanced technological "wonders" as "solutions." If it isn't costly, advanced, and marketable for immense profit to those seeking some exclusivity, then it can't be a "solution."
The bicycle is a mighty anti-propaganda, anti-marketing machine. The "solution" is to start doing things which are easy, vastly more efficient, vastly less costly, and which do not sluice more money into the coffers of the Central State, its fiefdoms and its Corporate Cartel partners.
Riding a bicycle in the city is a very freeing experience, both physically and psychologically. Riding in the city requires living in the present, and keeping one's awareness expansive and flexible.
You cannot remain angry at the driver who almost ran you down for long because a few seconds later there is a pedestrian crossing in front of you, then a bus pulling out, a car whose driver may not see you, someone opening their vehicle door in front of you, and so on. You must always be alert, present, aware--your situational awareness must extend to the cars parked ahead (is that a person in the driver's seat? Might they open their door without warning?), the cars that are supposed to stop, the Beamer in front of you which brakes and turns suddenly without signalling, and the speedy bicyclist overtaking you (better signal my upcoming left turn lest he slam into me).
Riding a bike is to live fully in the present. The only possible way to do so in a car would be to position yourself on the front bumper.
Traffic does not mean the same thing on a bike, and neither does parking.
The bicycle is the machine metaphor for doing more with less.
I do not want to give the impression I am against "more." I very much favor more:
-- self-selected/opt-in learning and skill acquisition
-- experimentation in education, sciences, opt-in organizations, resilience and self-reliance
-- failure (because without failure we would learn very little)
-- productive work
-- productive profit (as opposed to Wall Street speculative skimming aided and abetted by its Central State "partners")
-- distributed, decentralized self-organizing networks
-- capital accumulation (i.e. savings)
-- practice (as in: makes perfect)
-- awareness (as opposed to distraction)
-- radical self-reliance (as described in my book Survival+) as opposed to more entitlements
-- behavioral solutions (step 1: stop eating packaged "food"; step 2, start biking and walking, with a goal of getting your BMI below 22; step 3, turn off the TV "news")
-- health and well-being gained from eating and living well, not from over-prescribed medications, needless procedures and sickcare
-- home-cooked meals
-- playing live music (all kinds)
-- focus on well-being rather than "growth" (aren't tumors fast-growing?)
-- social media innovations which enable real advances in political and economic ways of working and communicating
-- homemade movies and music
-- technologically appropriate innovations which don't require Central State or global cartel control
-- solutions, workarounds and hacks we can do ourselves without local government or central State control (such as sickcare)
-- unmanipulated data; a lack of precision is a valuable kind of honesty.
-- fighter aircraft designed by fighter pilots and engineers that cost $30 million each and that can be built with off-the shelf components in three years, as opposed to $300 million-a-piece fighter aircraft which take 10 years to get into production designed by "mission creep" committee
-- home gardens, city-sponsored gardens
-- dedicated bike lanes, pedestrian shopping districts
-- mixed use neighborhoods
-- faster, better, cheaper
-- of what works and less of what doesn't
-- opt-in groups, online communities, professional organizations
-- hard work with visibly positive results, whether it is paid or not
-- integrated understanding of our interlocking challenges: making bike-riding safe for all ages is directly connected to improving the health of the citizenry, and eroding the ever-expanding power of an increasingly dysfunctional cartel-controlled sickcare.
-- imagination and creativity
Riding a bicycle in non-vehicular-traffic areas allows for the free association and meditative
state which lends itself to creativity, problem-solving and imagination.
That alone makes the bicycle a mighty machine--and metaphor.
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