The Pattern of Sociological Theory

The Pattern of Sociological Theory

“MANY a traveler has wondered why the Wameriku habitually sacrifice their lives to their curious ideas on traffic and mobility. As is well known, thousands yearly suffer death on the roads for no other reason than an apparent compulsion to get speedily from one place to another, and a vast machinery has been developed to make this possible. Why are they so indifferent to life and property when on the the other hand their laws tell them to avoid these accidents? I find it impossible to reconcile these laws with theories, held by some of my eminent colleagues, that self-immolation by speeding is some kind of religious rite with the Wameriku, or that motion in general is their religion. While not disregarding the possibility, I should like to suggest a more realistic theory which takes into account economic and social motives hitherto neglected.

“I would even go so far as to maintain that those deaths are unwanted and purely accidental, not deliberate as has been assumed. They are an incidental expense and must strike us civilized people as another indication of the callous cynicism which characterizes the Wameriku ruling class. For frankly—who benefits from the arrangements which cause these accidents?

“The traveler who moves around in this country, as its natives are wont to do, must soon become aware that its population is divided into two groups of different sizes. One has the very distinctive characteristic of supplying means of transportation, servicing same, waylaying the other group on the road with various enticements to eat, to sleep and to enjoy themselves in the manner of people who move around. The other is an unhappy agglomeration of people at large who are forced to travel, to buy or to use means of transportation and to pay the first group for the servicing of their vehicles and bodies while on the road. They submit to all kinds of indignities, such as paying tolls, eating whatever they are offered, sleeping in different beds every night; they accept poor service for considerable money, obey various laws affecting the ways and speeds they may use while traveling, and they agree to unspeakable crowding in the favored circuits at prescribed seasons, where they meet people they detest, where they helplessly have to listen to especially designed instruments dinning so-called folk airs into their ears while they are trying to relax (we shall presently expand on the question why they accept these disturbances and even pretend to like them) —briefly, they suffer a condition of existence which the stranger has great difficulty in understanding but which will become very transparent as soon as we consider the condition of the country.


Lima