Madelaine Akrich offers some clues as to why I, and many of us, fail despite our best intents. In her work on technologies she argues that technological artefacts, like roads, traffic signals, curbstones and all the paraphernalia of the street, behave like a film script. This film script prompts us to act out our lives in particular ways. Thus a freeway scripts us to drive fast; a red light scripts us to stop, and a traffic circle scripts us to turn left. These examples are so obvious, even mundane, that we take them completely for granted.
Amongst the obvious “scripts”, though, are the less obvious and more insidious ones. A wider road, for example, scripts “speed”, even on a suburban street. Straight roads also script “fast”, regardless of the number of people crossing, or the schools nearby. South African road infrastructure scripts in millions of subtle ways and for the most part these scripts are for vehicle priority and vehicle speed. In this daily drama the simple act of behaving independently, and counter to the script, is much tougher than we may realise.
Tough, but not impossible. I re-commit to “random acts of kindness” on the road. And I close my ears to the jibes of my adult children when I fall short.