China's Road To Nowhere

Marina Hyde writes that the "horrible thing about China's 62-mile nine-day jam was that it destroyed the certainty that travel will inevitably result in arrival."
September 4, 2010, 1pm PDT | George Haugh
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Among the citizens of the Chinese traffic jam, there appears to be little camaraderie; a reflection of our notion that traffic is always something inflicted upon us, even though it is manifestly a collective activity. "We say we are "in" traffic, dramatizing ourselves as a lone vehicle of noble and rational intent, with a sea of malevolent, dead weight antagonists stretching endlessly fore and aft," Hyde explains.

It is clear that we have a number of psychological duplicities to confront with regards to vehicular congestion. Indeed, the word traffic means movement of some sort but has been commandeered to imply sitting still.

"What we've always comforted ourselves with, however, is the idea that we'll get out of this jam eventually. The grimly hilarious thing about the Chinese gridlock is that it has appeared at times to be undermining this last psychological defence against the fear that we are all eternally trapped on a journey going nowhere. "Who knows when it will end?" one driver was quoted as asking. Another, more to the point, wondered: "Who knows if it will ever end?""

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Published on Friday, September 3, 2010 in The Guardian
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