Highways, A Metaphor

Started writing this for something else, but it ended up being a little too elaborate and didn’t fit, so here.

Everybody is born in a car, and the car is driving rapidly down a major highway. When each person comes to life, they know nothing, a reality not unlike John Locke’s posited tabula rasa. Each person knows not where they are, what direction in which they are heading, and especially neither the cause nor the destination of the mysterious car ride.

Unbeknownst to every person as they are born is that the destination is a town called Success, and it exists somewhere in—let’s say Iowa.

So, the first thing that everybody must do is figure out how to drive the car that is already rapidly speeding down whatever highway they are traversing. Well, I guess the first thing the babe must do is realize that they are in fact driving down a highway, whatever that is. Then, figure out how to drive.

If they’re lucky, at some point maybe they’ll figure out that there is a destination. Although, how anybody would be able to tell is beyond me.

The car has enough fuel to last anywhere between one and 100 years, but the driver has no idea how much.

Now, out of every 100 newborn drivers (let’s call them the Supers), three are equipped with a GPS device with the destination (Success, Iowa) already entered and the directions displaying. If they’re lucky, they’ll listen to the soothing computerized voice of the device and easily find their way.

Also out for these every 100 newborn drivers, 20 of the cars contain a map (we call these the Overs). No directions, but Iowa is circled. It’ll be a lot more difficult, but a little reasoning, a little driving around to catch some bearings and at least it won’t be impossible to find the destination.

Of the rest, 70 cars contain a note: “Find Success” (these we’ll call the Offspring). No map, no bearing, no guidance again of any kind. It’s not even clearly a place to go. Some will find it by luck, but most will drive around aimlessly, until the car finally runs out of fuel.

If you’ve done your math, you’ll find that we have seven left. These are given nothing, so we’ll call them the Nothings. They aren’t told there’s a goal to achieve, there’s a point to the drive, that there’s a chance of escape. Maybe by some chance opportunity they’ll drive through Success, Iowa, and think it’s a nice to stop, but how likely do you think that is?

Now, amidst all this driving, some folks who have landed in Success, Iowa, decide: “Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if we made some signs pointing here, so that everybody can at least find this tiny town in the middle of nowhere?” And, so, they’ll go around making signs and planting them.

Not everybody agrees. “This place is ours, because we earned it,” they’ll exclaim. “It’s not our fault the rest aren’t smart enough to find it.” So, they’ll first fight to take down the signs, but people seem to think that’s unfair. Why take down the signs?

So, the Anti-Sign Party counters: “Oh, no, we’re not heartless. You see, the signs just have lots of mistakes in them, so it’s confusing to people who would find us anyway. The signs are having the opposite effect of what everybody (including us!) intended. If we take down the signs, it’ll be easier for people to find us!”

Now, that reasoning isn’t great, and people are not really convinced. So, the Anti-Sign Party adds: “The Pro-Sign Party is made of liars! They are deliberately lying to you about the signs, while trying to oppress the drivers out there by lying to them and pointing them away from here! See, that just increases the demand for signs, and maybe they own the sign factories!”

So the signs get taken down. All over the country, no more signs. People just driving around.

Now, don’t get me started on the deteriorating nature of America’s transportation infrastructure.

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