Home > Appreciated Quotes > Illich’s Habitual Passenger, part I

Illich’s Habitual Passenger, part I

Monday’s Quote

The habitual passenger cannot grasp the folly of traffic based overwhelmingly on transport*. His inherited perceptions of space and time and of personal pace have been industrially deformed. He has lost the power to conceive of himself outside the passenger role. Addicted to being carried along, he has lost control over the physical, social, and psychic powers that reside in man’s feet. The passenger has come to identify territory with the untouchable landscape through which he is rushed. He has become impotent to establish his domain, mark it with his imprint, and assert his sovereignty over it. He has lost confidence in his power to admit others into his presence and to share space consciously with them. He can no longer face the remote by himself. Left on his own, he feels immobile.”

Ivan Illich in Energy and Equity (Chapter: Speed-stunned imagination)


* Illich uses transport as modes of movement which rely on sources of energy that don’t utilize the human metabolic energy.

  1. September 24, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Thanks so much for this good reminder. I have posted it to WorldStreets.org with a note thanking you. Eric

  2. September 24, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    Thank you, Eric. Glad it found some previous fans of Illich’s work. I’m amazed as well how accurate his book seems to have played out and how accurately he depicted our choices, many of which we struggle with still. The link you provided to his biography is appreciated, as well as your work through World Streets!


  3. October 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    Illich was a modern prophet who suffered for telling the truth, much like Giordano Bruno and Rene Descartes. The decade from 1965 to 1975 saw quite a few individuals, for example Daniel Ellsberg, who altruistically brought attention to government coverups and gross misconduct by elected officials. Seems you can’t maintain a constitutional democracy without such people whistleblowing for the whole, yet society usually treats them with contempt and wrecks their future through imprisonment, isolation or worse. Who wants to take that chance? Meanwhile freedoms slip away.

    Illich and others like him inspired my book on bicycling culture, free on-line at…

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