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Slow down Rob

rob

What do I think that I can add to my knowledge of the world by clicking on the video of a fatal car crash in Crowborough Sussex last April? The police and the parents of the dead believe it will make people think before speeding. That is why they have agreed to the video’s its release; why it appears in a click box on the Guardian website (and the Sun’s).
I have no idea what it will add until I click except I know I want to insert myself into that space between now and then, into the finest slice possible of time – the moment of disappearance, the secret one can never betray. I click on the video and watch.
The youngsters in the car are gaming the envelope that keeps the car’s tires on the road. It is late on a Saturday night in Sussex, their voices gargled with drink and spit thickened with drugs, the eyes of the driver flash red as the camera catches him turn in his seat to grin. The eternal threesome on a night out when they didn’t get the girls.
The one in the back drops his head forward all you see is his mop of hair, you can’t make out what he says, then the camera swings back to the unreeling, unfeeling tarmac. They are juggling velocity and mass with only the speedometer and their tiny headpieces as guides. They are riding such and such a number of finely engineered horse (chevaux) power.
The word in French is puissance, a little more than power. The French for impotent is impuissant. Potent includes the idea of potential – carry forward – and that there is something that is being propelled that can be carried forward, in distance, in time. They are being carried forward in time, accelerated.
The arrow says it all – power at a distance, carrying death in its tip and intelligence in its flight feathers. As soon as the first arrow went off someone will have wanted to ride it, be where the arrow was shooting up into the sky, escaping. To get away, to get past, to go on, to break thru. To outpace time. Didn’t we know it when we felt that force that pushed us, accelerating, down the first tube of all. Doesn’t any arrow type thing go where we’d like to be into the future into the next stage? Isn’t a bit more speed all it takes?
It took a while to get round to enough engineering complexity, rocket science, and now the manned space flight toys are shoved somewhere into the back of a cupboard in humanity’s hallway. We got there, the T shirt, we did it – why go back? Space is for tourists and death-robots.
The tickle that the boys in the car are getting, the thrill, is the tickle of their brains updating against an overload, slash editing quantities of visual data and the surge joggle jostle of their testicles, gyros translating shifts in the forces acting on them to signals tingling up the spine.
The champions of acceleration all agree it’s like they mate with the machine. The machines have been lending us stuff for centuries. Now it is pay back time, the machines are beckoning us with a crooked finger – come on honey, come play – they want some of the stuff we’ve got, they want to become man-rated.
The road ahead runs into the black. Yellow worms from the smearing street lamps go wriggling by, the camera pokes down at the speedo, looks like ninety, pokes up ahead at a darker shape with two low slung red eyes – go round ‘im go round im – and wherr heyy! Rob goes round the lorry in a sloppy curve. Then it’s the black road again, bumps and weaves, hoarse voices mouthing Sussex madness then more lights, white ones this time odd shapes of buildings – slow down Rob – the voice from the back says feeling deep voiced and grown up just before he goes. But the words are not executive, nobody grabs the key.
A few more seconds of camera judder, anonymous abstract tracings of some Sussex township some Saturday night – slow down Rob – and they find the church wall splat like that and something must have happened to the camera, there is just a second of crunching noise like breaking a connection or a tooth being pulled then black and silent.
Who knows what the young men will do when the automatic doodle cars come, the intelligent uberblobs? Seventy five years ago, in that sky above Sussex the Brits used to lose their young men at a steady rate, their flying machines and those of the guys on the other team slapped down all over the countryside and into the sea. Now they just get thrown away as a side effect of an engineering philosophy which embraces the lure of acceleration, of death, and turns it into a trigger that opens wallets.
The facades of cars are deliberately made to look like intimidating beasts in the rear view mirror, you have to accelerate to get away, frightened white worm in the fake leather smell cockpit. But as the hunter car goes past you see that although he carries the brand marque on his nose at back he’s just a light arse compact. It is all make believe, but we all fall for it. Stupendous are the traps we don’t avoid.

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