Driving Lessons by Kant

I think the worst part about moving to a city where I now have to commute in traffic is just how frustrated I get with having to drive, or rather, how frustrated I get with other drivers. I thought about this last night when I was driving home from work, and yet again, I was stuck behind another selfish slowpoke driver owning the left lane when he was not passing any vehicles on the right. The vehicles on the right were all passing him. I looked to the far right of the freeway, and there were practically no cars in the right line. This is a routine occurrence on the roads here in Washington State, as people customarily ignore the “keep right except to pass” signs posted on the shoulders and in the median. Because of this driving phenomenon, I have found myself becoming extremely conscious of not using the left lane except when I am passing other vehicles. I figure, I cannot get upset when other drivers don’t follow the rule, unless I follow it myself. Last night, as I was thinking about this, I started to think about my other driving rules that I follow, knowing it makes my commute longer sometimes, but if I break the rule, then I would be hypocritical.

Merging is another common example. I hate people who see others patiently merging into the back of the line and then speed down to butt into someone in the front of the line of cars at the last possible second. I get in the back of the line. Did these people who speed down and merge at the last second not go to kindergarten? Did they not learn the various rhymes about cutting in line like, “No butts, no cuts, no peanut butter haircuts?” Perhaps not. But in any case these people are the exact kind of people who it is very hard for me to like in life – they have no common courtesy or concern for anyone else’s welfare beside themselves; they are just trying to get ahead in life.

This is what I determined last night: when it comes to driving rules, Immanuel Kant was right. No one should drive in a manner that they couldn’t universalize to every other driver on the highway. If everyone wait in line, then the line would go faster because there wouldn’t be people cutting in at the last minute. Whereas, if everyone tried to cut in at the last minute, then there would just be a mess of traffic accidents.

My problem in life is also my salvation – I see everything in terms of the possibility for universal justice. I thought that I had become so jaded in recent years, convinced that justice was impossible, because in my job as an attorney, it has become rare to see any notion of justice in the courtroom. Perhaps that is just not the proper venue for justice. Adversarial systems make no sense to me. Nonetheless, there is still a bit of an optimist in me, believing that there can be some rational basis for right and wrong, no matter how naive that may seem.

On an unrelated note, last night I went to the information session at UW on their library and information science masters degree program. Just walking on campus made me giddy, because I just love universities so much. I love everything about the idea of higher education. If I could spend the rest of my life affiliated with an institution of higher education I just think of how content I would be.

Don’t get me started on the universal good of libraries…

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