French road: Diagnosis 2 – part 5


Following the Easter weekend of 1999, and just a few hours after the terrible fire in the Mont Blanc road tunnel, a certain journalist in a certain magazine recounted the «facts» of this somewhat special road accident in the purest current journalistic style regarding heavy goods vehicles by making great play of the term «the zero truck» and declaring firmly that a continuous white line is not there to be respected. According to him, this was why so many drivers perished in the flames. According to our voluble friend, they should have dared to cross this forbidden line when the fire broke out. This way of approaching the subject merely gives the impression yet again that truckers are imbeciles. What else do they think he could have done? And. in any case, we still do not know all the circumstances.

In a way, the journalist, to do him justice, also echoed my own opinion by giving information regarding the lack of security arrangements, especially as the use made by the tunnel’s managers of their income (and profits) has never been in the interest of the users, essentially the trucks and cars. We have here yet another example, first, of the rule that profits must override everything else and, second, that the journalistic world is convinced that it knows everything, or would have us believe so, even when it has to rely on invention. In this case the journalist gave the impression to his readers that he was himself present at the time of the accident, and knew more about it than the police or even the French President. He could not care less whether he is right or not to say that a heavy goods vehicle is the same thing as a «zero truck» and is responsible for the carnage. Perhaps this gentleman forgot to contain his emotion and to give objective information as any self-respecting journalist should. Above all, could he have forgotten that at the wheel of this «zero truck» there was a driver simply doing his job and, that, whatever the verdict regarding his legal responsibility, he will, sadly for him, suffer the psychological effects for the rest of his days? By the diabolical hazard of the way our roads work, he found himself at the wheel of a truck loaded with cooking oil and flour, which merely worsened the problem. Here again, we have a chain of circumstances based on the lack of anticipation founded on considerations of hard cash and the need to stick to the tightest of schedules.

None of this will prevent the ordinary reader and future driver, thanks to these exaggerated journalistic remarks about heavy vehicles, from unconsciously making the following mental associations: danger-truck, truck-danger, danger-danger, danger-fear, fear destroying all the brain’s capacity for proper functioning, destroying his reflexes the next time he finds himself on the road alongside a truck. This will lead him into monumental imbecilities and, unconsciously, arouse the aggressiveness of the trucker, who will not understand why the car has placed itself in such a position of insecurity vis-à-vis himself when the car is such a ridiculous little insect compared with a truck. The result is to create an explosive cocktail of collisions and serious accidents due mainly to car-drivers’ ignorance of trucks, of how to behave towards them and of the very burdensome responsibility that the truckers have in their hands, literally and metaphorically. Marx showed that goods were only truly valuable when transported from one point to another. This being so, why should there be such hatred towards the drivers of heavy vehicles who are only doing their job — a very real job in a country like ours where the drivers’ brains are fully active, despite what many people seem to think. And this brain, after thousands of hours at the wheel, gradually blends into the vehicle being driven, in a kind of pernicious erosion. I would strongly advise anyone to drive a vehicle of this kind even just ten miles in order to appreciate the qualities and patience needed to do this job. As for those who are incapable of going more than a year without having an accident, whether they are responsible or not, I can imagine them going no further than half a mile before escaping as fast as they can to a quieter and less dangerous place — an office, for example – safely surrounded by four walls and wait there for the loudmouths to tell them how to think or act. Most employees of all grades and in all fields can put down their pens, make mistakes of all kinds and this will never or very rarely have serious effects. Truckers, in return for wages and working conditions that are often atrocious, are required to make not the slightest error, being the slaves of modern times.

A major French characteristic is to look at problems from the wrong end and above all never confront reality. The scapegoats of the French press are the drivers and the police, the poor police who are attacked and insulted by scum of all kinds and, when one of them by misfortune retaliates, the journalists delight to put him in the public pillory. But when some dangerous individual injures a policeman there are no complaints. Incidentally, it may be a good thing for some that thousands of cars are deliberately set on fire each year in France as this and other phenomena of insecurity are good for trade.

Some of you youngsters when you go for bus drivers or the fuzz or the truckers, you are attacking the wrong target; you are attacking your own side, destroying not only yourselves but the people in the same social situation as yours, living in the same kind of place, whether it be a hundred yards away or 600 miles. Your hatred has been steered towards these professions and, if you think a little, you will see that you are destroying your own parish and your own purse, the result being to descend even lower than you now are. All those, young and old, who blindly follow a certain journalistic system in all things that run counter to life in the community that is ruled by commonsense, play into the hands of a system that is against them but benefits those who say “do as I say, not as I do”.