On The Rule Of The Road Essay

There are two levels on which to answer this question, the literal and the figurative.

Literally, when Gardiner refers to the "rule of the road," he is talking about the rules that govern what you are allowed to do on the road.  He is referring to the anecdote about the Russian woman walking down the middle of the road and causing traffic problems.  That woman was not following the laws that govern what we may...

There are two levels on which to answer this question, the literal and the figurative.

Literally, when Gardiner refers to the "rule of the road," he is talking about the rules that govern what you are allowed to do on the road.  He is referring to the anecdote about the Russian woman walking down the middle of the road and causing traffic problems.  That woman was not following the laws that govern what we may do on roads.

But there is a figurative meaning here as well.  Gardiner is using traffic laws as a metaphor for the rules (often unwritten and informal) that make society work and that create community and solidarity in society.  The major point of this essay is that people need to think about how their actions affect others and how they affect society, not just about what they themselves want to do.   In this sense, the rules of the road are rules of politeness and of unselfishness.  They are rules such as "don't play your trombone too loudly or at the wrong time" or "don't have loud conversations in public places."

So, the term "rules of the road" is being used in two ways in this essay.

The connection between this claim and the scenario on modern roads will depend a bit upon what country or region your roads are located in.  There are very different customs of driving in different countries.

In the United States, a major connection is that we see on our roads the consequences of being "liberty drunk."  Gardiner says that people who are liberty drunk do whatever they want without considering the needs of others and of the society as a whole.  On the roads, they cut in and out of traffic or they eat or shave or apply makeup or send text messages as they drive.  These actions are convenient to them, but they put others in danger.

Gardiner argues that society is weakened when people act in these ways.  We can see this on our roads in the phenomenon of "road rage."  As people act in selfish ways, our social cohesion breaks down.  We then think that it is acceptable to act very aggressively towards other drivers (perhaps as Gardiner would like to act towards the man who was talking loudly and incessantly as he was trying to read).  In this way, the scenario on our roads today shows us that people who are "liberty drunk" break down our social cohesion with their actions.

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