Sunday, 18 October 2015
On drawing the line - twice
As the vehicle breaches the dotted white line, and the beeping continues to insist, and as the dumb green man entices one way and the great red beam commands the other, it is clear: the driver has jumped the lights.
And if at that moment the vehicle collides with the pedestrian, it is clear too: the driver has transgressed and is very clearly responsible. We can only hope that the pedestrian's injuries are not too severe.
A second pedestrian replaces the first; but this new pedestrian has chosen to cross the road not directly at the crossing but in its shadow, three or four metres further along. No matter. The vehicle is moving at such a speed that it still strikes the pedestrian, and it is yet again clear that the driver is to blame for any injuries, mild though we hope they are.
Five minutes later, with both the first and second pedestrian never having been struck, the vehicle is close to a mile from the crossing when, as it turns left onto a side road, it strikes a third pedestrian. Initially there is some confusion, because the driver had been clearly indicating (there are witnesses) and was not speeding (as indicated subsequently by the length of the tyre marks on the road) and it was thus assumed that the collision was the fault of the pedestrian, who had stepped into the road without looking (concentrating, instead, on the small screen in their hand).
Only later was it discovered that the driver had a few minutes earlier jumped a red light and was thus, in fact, responsible, since if he or she had not done so then they would, clearly, not have been turning left at the time required to collide with this particular pedestrian.
* * *
Except, of course, it really was the third pedestrian's fault.
So it becomes necessary to arrange for several dozen, possibly several hundred pedestrians, each positioned at a small regular interval from one another, stretching from the site of the original transgression to a distance of, well, let's say a mile for argument's sake.
It is clear - is it not? - that the pedestrians positioned 1 and 2 and 3 metres from the crossing could, should they be struck by the vehicle, quite rightly claim that the collision was the fault of the driver, who had just jumped a red light at a pedestrian crossing. It seems clear, too, that the pedestrians positioned a mile away could not make such a claim, even though the collision would not have occurred had the driver not committed the transgression in question.
Which means that somewhere, between here and there, there is a line, to one side of which is a blameless pedestrian, and to the other of which is a guilty pedestrian.
"So you wouldn't work for a tobacco company?"
"Or an arms manufacturer?"
"Or an oil company."
"What about an accountancy firm?"
"That sounds ok."
"What if they do the accounts for an oil company? Or an arms firm?"
"Would you work for a private equity business."
"Definitely not. Evil capitalist bastards."
"What if they invest in potentially life-saving drugs?"
"Would you work for a charity?"
"What if they provide community development support to people in a developing country who work for a tobacco company?"
"Would you work for government?"
"What if their money comes from the taxes paid by arms manufacturers, private equity firms, oil companies, exploitative pharmaceutical conglomerates, rapacious retail giants and devious vehicle manufacturers?"
"Well that would obviously depend on whether the vehicles struck the pedestrians close to or some distance away from the official crossing."
"You mean it just depends on where you draw the line."