Pub conversations can range from the banal to the potentially profound. On most exchanges I try to maintain an interest even if the subject isn't exactly my forte. However, when the discussion turns to cars, my mind starts to wander. A large number of men, it seems to be a male preserve, can talk about cars with a passion & intensity which could & should be expended on many other things. The Top Gear website (www.topgear.com/ ) is online manna from heaven for men of a certain age who fret about their golf handicap, sigh about the passage of time, launch vitriol at the smoking ban, bemoan changing social attitudes ("political correctness gone mad") & see Jeremy Clarkson et al as lovable rogues who would be great company at the bar.
It is such people whom Joan Smith has firmly in her sights with a cogent missive in today's Independent on Sunday (http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/joan-smith/joan-smith-cars-is-a-fourletter-word- ).
Smith declares, "British drivers --not all of them, but the ones who think it's their inalienable right to use their cars as much as they like-- are among the most antisocial people on earth."
Smith does leave herself open to the charge of hypocrisy when she admits to owning a Ford Ka. In her defence, however, it can be said that the Ka is one of the most fuel efficient vehicles on the road.
Car use is inevitably seen in the context of the environment & climate change. It is in such a context that attitudes remain Clarksonesque; there isn't so much a disconnect as a chasm between people's general acceptance of green measures & their own willingness to change at least some aspect of their own lifestyles. Politicians from all the main parties know this, but are too scared of the electoral consequences to show any gumption on the issue. As Smith plaintively remarks, "How I long for politicians prepared to talk frankly about the damage caused by ever-increasing car ownership and face down the shrill demands of fuel price protestors."
This was a point echoed by Smith's fellow commentator on the Independent, Johann Hari on Friday's "Any Questions" (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/anyquestions/ ) with a refreshing directness to a largely petrolhead audience in Cheshire. Well said, Johann!