Home > Cultural Movement, Economics > Illich’s Habitual Passenger, part II

Illich’s Habitual Passenger, part II

An Illich Inspired Crank

“The habitual passenger cannot grasp the folly of traffic based overwhelmingly on transport…”– Ivan Illich.

… And thus, the individual feels stuck in life. Often asking aloud, “What’s the point?”

Trapped in a world lacking in spontaneity, she commits herself to the commute and the necessary errands found along ever-widening corridors of significance. These places she passes through are increasingly lacking in human-scaled development. Increase the speed and no one will notice. She may have wanted to join traffic under her own natural power, but she is no longer welcome. She is no longer a ‘citizen’, but a consumer of speed. Drop in, drop out. Repeat somewhere down the road. Keep moving. Quickly.

The road that carries her motorized chariot is a service that she consumes. No longer is it public space; it’s her space. Government is just the company that builds and maintains the road’s surface. She is a ‘tax payer’ who demands what she wants. In this case, smooth surfaces clear of obstacles and annoyances. This service needs to always be on sale. Build it at a discount with minimal design; designs that may interrupt her commute, so are best left out of the plans.

The fact that the majority take part in the same speed based reality is reassurance enough that she belongs. It’s the way it is. All other modes of movement are ‘alternative‘ and best left to the needy, the poor, the infirm and the radicals. At best, it’s child’s play; at worst, it’s a sign of weakness.

She has somewhere to be and can’t be bothered. If ‘the company’ must build something for those left to self-propel, either by foot or pedal, put it to the side or out of sight. Never put it in the way of her transportation needs. Where the roads intersect, she’s confident that she we will be the priority. Her needs are protected. By the industry. By the box. With a motor.

Get out of her way.


“In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy”— Ivan Illich.


NOTE: Henry Morgenstein recently wrote an introduction to Illich, Energy & Equity: Democracy and the Bicycle.

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