Letters from Readers, October 1974

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Your Own Life

Sir,

Whilst reading “Reflections in the Bourgogne” in the August issue of your most excellent magazine, I was greatly impressed by D.S.J.’s depressingly apt observations on the future of so-called “Civilisation”. Namely, “when civilisation progresses even further and legislation forbids anyone to risk their life at anything”. How unfortunate that the majority of legislators, upon reading that extract, would thoroughly endorse the principle whilst remaining vacuously immune to the irony.

It occurs to me that we in the Western World are at present being subjected to a concentrated programme of dehumanisation by legislation, for one of the sovereign factors that denote our human status is the ability we possess, as individuals, to estimate consequence and, consequently, to accept responsibility for our actions. To deny an individual responsibility is to deny a whole race of people the respect which, as human beings, they merit. Our “welfare state” has robbed the working man of the basic pride in achievement of raising, feeding, housing and clothing his family through the sweat of his own labour. “Why bother?”, seems the general attitude, “to work for a pittance when one can earn as much by doing nothing except visit the Labour Exchange now and again”.

Consequently we are plagued with strikes, born of apathy, since, unfortunately, it seems apparent that the only way to obtain respect these days is to buy it. The legislators and “do gooders” have seen to that, depriving people of even the basic privilege of expressing their individuality on and in their own homes. Instead, human-beings are herded like battery-hens into vast concrete excrescences where they exist within the bonds of council regulations, which tend to make vandalism the only feasible form of self-expression available. Where is the community spirit and self-respect which at one time compelled people to take pride in not only the appearance of their own homes, but urged them, as a community, to ensure that their neighbours did likewise? The answer is that it has been legislated out of existence and replaced by a common urge to beat, abuse and cheat authority wherever possible. People do not take kindly to being robbed of their lives, even if they are guaranteed a form of existence in return.

This may not sound like a letter to a motoring magazine, but the preceding arguments are all too relevant. How can a motorist be expected to act responsibly and considerately if legislation attempts to deny him the freedom of choice which alone could foster a natural responsibility towards and respect for his fellow human-beings (and himself)?

Compulsion is very effective with sheep and cattle. Perhaps I am in error, but I have always thought that we possessed, at least potentially, more intelligence than those destined to become Sunday joints. Unfortunately, the attitude of our law-makers seems to prove that they think otherwise. Faced with overwhelming evidence that an excess of petty kindergarten legislation leads to a dissipation of the respect that the Law and its enforcers once commanded, they propose further legislation, this time ordering us to remain, at all times, tethered to our car seats for our own safety’s sake, rather similar to the way a dog-owner tethers his pet to railings on a busy street. Should the dog slip its collar as likely as not it will be stingingly rebuked. Likewise our unbelted motorist, courtesy of the magistrates’ court, will be heavily penalised, for, as in the case of the dog, “his own protection”. It must therefore be concluded that our esteemed overlords believe that what is good for their miniature poodle is good for their motoring population.

As long as the motorist is treated as a sub-human species he will behave like one. It is a matter of record that human children, raised by wild animals, behave like wild animals. The kudos in today’s society tend to go to the driver who broke the law and “got away with it” for that is the only way a motorist has an opportunity of using any ingenuity at all in today’s restricted atmosphere. Adults treated like children behave like children. On present indications in twenty years’ time we shall have no choice but to drive like children, strapped and cushioned in crash-proof, pollution-proof, fool-proof (since only fools will bother) vehicles, limited to 20 m.p.h. in the interests of economy (for engines will be limited to 1,000 c.c. and the armour-plating alone will weigh two tons), bumping the stuffing out of each other on the vast dodgem-track of motorways and trunk-roads networking the British countryside (the cities will be firmly out-of-bounds), and dying prematurely from total ossification of our brains and central nervous systems.

We might just avert this appalling destiny if our rulers accept this humble advice. Namely, to REDUCE the amount of motoring legislation in stages, so, as the motorist learns to accept a little responsibility he is allowed to cultivate his new-found attribute until ALL motoring law can be made merely advisable. The burden of safety will then be back where it belongs, on the shoulders of the individual motorist and, more important, the motoring community as a whole affording each the responsibility which, to my mind at least, is synonymous with real Civilisation, for the only indictable offence would be “Driving in an uncivilised manner” and all prosecutions initiated by citizens themselves under Government subsidy, thus freeing the Police to attend to the other matters for which, they claim, they are so short-staffed.

Many will possibly assume that I am utterly insane; a matter on which I am unqualified to comment. I do believe that a person’s life is his own and his conduct his own responsibility. The consequences and penalties of irresponsible and anti-social behaviour should not be cushioned or concealed, but universally recognised and allowed to take full toll. Only in this way can we, as a race of people, be stimulated into becoming truly civilised and only then by expunging the pettiness of present-day legislation which is an insult to the intelligence of every human-being who has to sweat in frustration under its stultifying load.

I will (at long last) close with a passing thought, prompted by D.S.J.’s article. “When civilisation progresses ever further and legislation forbids anyone to risk their life at anything, more of life will be at risk than ever before”.

Birmingham

Steve Hamilton

* * *

Petrol economy

Sir,

I have followed your recent correspondence and enter my wife’s Honda 600Z as a contender in the written contest. According to read test in Motor of August 5th, 1972 the mean top speed is 73 m.p.h. (best 78) and the fuel consumption figures are:

..

Subsequent experience has shown that these figures are not misleading, as the following illustration will show.

On Saturday June 29th this year I drove from Macclesfield to Bath partly on the M6 but mostly on busy main roads, and later that day returned to Macclesfield mostly on the M4, M5 and M6. The following table contains the relevant statistics of the journey. The mileage figures are corrected for an optimistic mileometer.

..

Can the Fiat 126 match these figures? Whether or not it can, from my experience of the Fiat 500 I doubt whether I could have survived in it either part of the journey let alone the round trip without a splitting headache and cramped limbs.

I tried the 500 before buying the Honda, but found it to be cramped, uncomfortable, noisy and generally unbearable for more than about 10 miles at a time. By contrast the Honda 600Z is extremely comfortable for 2 adults and two or three small children, its driving position and location of controls are as near perfect as possible, it is quiet by modern standards, it handles nicely now it is on Michelin ZXs and up to date (23,000 miles) it is utterly reliable.

The Honda 600Z has two faults, first the usual poor heating arrangements found with air cooled engines and secondly that it is no longer imported into this country.

On another subject I was delighted to see from the picture on page 814 that you have seen the light and have rescued a Lanchester LD 10.

Macclesfield.

R. W. Ramage

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