You’re driving past the gym. Your friends laughs. “Look,” he says pointing at the car park, “all those people, driving to the gym just so they can run on a treadmill. Idiots. Why didn’t they just run there?!”
1) Your friend is the idiot.
2) A paradox is involved here, but it’s deeper down.
Why is your friend an idiot?
Because most people do have a good reason to drive:
- I want to do more than go for a run, like do weight training, and
- adding an endurance run on top of that is overkill, and
- I had already driven into town for work, and
- it was raining, and
- all the traffic fumes make me wheeze like a three-pack-a-day smoker, and
- I don’t like getting run over by bad drivers, and
- have you seen what goes down on these streets? I dislike being murdered.
These last reasons are where the paradox lies. Traffic and violence. They show us how society can get stuck in paradoxical traps.
Take the people who drive so they can avoid running alongside traffic. They become traffic. Other people drive to avoid them. They are stuck in a trap.
Here’s a simplified scenario of how this can happen.
Imagine a village of cyclists. The village roads are car-free. That’s what they want. Now imagine that one of the villagers buys a car.
That car makes the roads a tiny bit unsafe for cyclists. The most timid villager decides cycling is now too dangerous. They buy a car too. This leads to more cars. More danger. More switches. More cars. The whole village ends up doing the opposite of what they all wanted.
They get stuck.
The real world is much more complicated, but a similar dynamic is at play. A lot of us would prefer to get around by foot or by bike, but we are forced to drive because… we are all driving. The loop has pushed us to the point where homes, cities, and businesses – including gyms – are all built on the assumption that you will drive. Therefore you must. Therefore you do. Therefore it is assumed.
We got stuck.
That’s why we drive even when it seems like an idiotic thing to do.
Now let’s turn to the people who drive because they are afraid of violence. Poverty is a major root cause of street violence. A major root cause of poverty (and by no means the only cause) is economics, in particular, an exploitative style of capitalism which has no problem sacrificing people for the sake of profits.
Capitalism of this kind can act like an addiction.
Imagine an oil spill: a container ship importing foodstuffs. It’s been flouting regulations because that’s most profitable. It runs aground in a bay full of fish.
Before the spill people would happily go fishing in that bay and eat for free. After the spill the fishery is destroyed. Those people now have to buy food. They buy it from a store. The store buys it off a wholesaler. The wholesaler gets it shipped to them on container ships full of oil.
More ships. More spills. More destruction. More substitutes. More ships.
When you choose to exercise by driving to a gym because you feel too unsafe exercising in your own neighborhood, then you too might be stuck in a trap. This trap is big and complicated, put together over decades by all the lobbyists, stockbrokers, oil executives, and more who done questionable things, which created poverty, which made you afraid, which made you decide to buy gas, which funded the oil industry, which sent that money back around to all the questionable people who got you here.
The more you have, the more you get.