I recently talked about the power games that drivers play with each other, how they often involve using cars as weapons, shields or placeholders, and how that can kill pedestrians and cyclists if the drivers forget that we don't have two tons of steel protecting us. In a counterpoint to that, I have noticed that drivers often perceive their cars as parts of themselves.
You've probably all had the experience, as car passengers if not drivers, of looking for your car in a large parking lot and saying something like, "I think we're over here." It used to drive me nuts to hear myself saying that. I would correct myself: "No, we're right here. The car is over there." But it's very easy to think of things that way. After all, when we're driving around, most people just see our auto bodies and not our flesh bodies inside them.
People often get very protective of their auto bodies. I personally never have, maybe because I've only ever driven used cars and rentals. It may simply be that it's inconvenient and expensive to repair damage, and even if you can get a dent out the car still doesn't look like new. But I think there's something more, due to the way drivers identify with their vehicles.
Combine this protectiveness for the driver's own auto body with the casual disregard for the flesh bodies of pedestrians and cyclists that comes from power games, and the result is homicidal craziness. I've read tons of stories of cyclists and pedestrians who tapped on the fender of a car, and even done it myself occasionally. It is invariably done in response to some kind of dangerous move on the part of the driver. Often the victim, either a pedestrian with no warning system but their own voice, or a cyclist with no horn and only a little bell, was simply trying to get the driver's attention. Sometimes they hit the car out of rage, but only intending to express their frustration, not to cause any damage.
It never accomplishes anything worthwhile. Sometimes the drivers just zip away indifferently. Sometimes they roll down the window or even get out of their cars, shaking with fury and hurling threats. "You touch my car?!" I've heard of fistfights resulting, or weapons. Even worse, sometimes the drivers stay in their cars and use them as weapons to try to harm the cyclist or pedestrian.
When a cyclist or pedestrian talks later about an incident like this, in person or on a message board, some condescending jerk will often lecture the victim about the folly of hitting someone's car. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Yes, it's a really bad idea and it can get you killed. But let's step back from the pragmatic perspective and reflect on how deeply, insanely divorced from reality the driver's point of view is. On one side we've got a flesh-and-blood human who's just been put in mortal danger by someone with two tons of steel. On the other we've got a person who probably has no damage or danger at all to their life or property, and at the absolute worst has a fifty dollar repair job. But the person who is in no danger is making homicidal threats to the other.
This kind of thing happens every day on our streets. It is the very definition of bullying and injustice. And it has to stop. It will not be stopped by electric cars, or fuel cells, or natural gas. It will only be stopped by shifting to a system where there are no cars.