Think of all the things you can do if you can drive. You can go out with your friends, you can work, and you can travel freely on your own. Americans take driving for granted. The personal automobile has shaped our nation in a way that is unique. The wide-open spaces in America, the sprawling suburbs…these have all been created by the automobile.
Henry Ford’s goal was to make the car affordable for everyone, and that he did. In Europe, trains and public transportation define most cities. In most of America, if you do not have a car, you are at a disadvantage in terms of securing work and having the same freedoms as the rest of your peers. I waitressed my way through college in Rochester, New York, a city not known for it’s kind weather. If I worked an early shift, I could catch the 1:07 bus up East Henrietta Rd up to the mall. If I got out late, I walked the near five miles home. It took about an hour. Think of a mother trying to get home to her kids, or a person trying to get extra hours–if you spend you time waiting for busses, transferring, and walking, it’s difficult to get other things done.
Additionally, if you study bus routes in most non-commuter cities, they don’t go directly from place to place. In a commuter city like New York City or Boston, it’s easy to live life without a driver’s license. In Providence–not so much. You will lose economic opportunities.
Now, think of not being able to drive. What would that do to your sense of freedom, your ability to make a higher-level living, and your ability to move your family around from place to place. When I was growing up, for years we only had one car for the family. If something so small as grocery shopping came up or one of us had to go to the doctors, my mother had to ask a friend with a car to do her a favor or wait until my father was home from work. This severely impacted her independence.
Think further. What if, by law, you were not able to drive. What if the government said, just based on your gender, you should not.
That is the case in Saudi Arabia. While there is no law stating women cannot drive, it is a custom, and women can be detained, harassed, or lose their jobs for driving. It’s simply not done.
We’ll be discussing several freedoms that involve the issue of transportation and mobility, and how such things change our opportunities in life.
The first will be the heroics of Manal al-Sharif. Watch her TEDx talk on this Learnist board: “Driving Men Crazy in Saudi Arabia” Do not miss Learning #4 by Saudi comedian, musician, and social rights activist Hisham Fageeh. It’s a winner.