Houston Red Light Cameras and giving voters the middle-finger

The man hatches his new plan for social good.

yes mastah.

Have you ever been driving through an intersection that happens to have a red light camera on it? Have you ever accidently gone through only to see the camera flash in your rear view mirror? How does that make you feel? Nowimagine this: You were given a choice, in the form of a vote, on whether or not you wanted to have this fun little experience. And the vote passed in favor of disabling the cameras. (sigh of relief right?) Now imagine that a year or so later you are driving and miss the red light only to see the flash that should not even be there. NOW how do you feel? Not only do you begin to worry about whether or not you will receive an unwanted holiday card from the city but you are given the middle finger because you have been reminded that, even though you went to vote, and everyone else went to vote, and that the vote was to take them down, they are not down. (edit: looks like they did take them down.. and then put them back up. and then take them back down. and then put them back up?)

Even assuming arguendo that they were turned back on because they mayor said so, the fact remains that the action is still bullshit because that would mean that the Mayor is expecting us to tune into channel 11 news or read the Houston Chronicle every 15 minutes to see what the law was going to be for that day. Speaking of the law, isn’t that what the results of votes are for….

Picture of Jeremy Bentham

This guy has more Facebook friends than you do

Ah! It’s good ole’ Jeremy Bentham reminding us from the grave (sorta) that people avoid pain and the pain of not knowing whether or not the flash has any significance is good enough to keep us servants in line.

Photograph of a prison designed using Panopticon theory

home sweet home

“Hence we design the prison so that the prisoners are forced to behave as they ought because they think the unseen warder in the centre of the spider’s web is always watching them. We design the penal code so that self-interested people, desiring to avoid punishment, do what they ought.” (Harrison 2001)

or in his own words

You will please to observe, that though perhaps it is the most important point, that the persons to be inspected should always feel themselves as if under inspection, at least as standing a great chance of being so, yet it is not by any means the only one. If it were, the same advantage might be given to buildings of almost any form. What is also of importance is, that for the greatest proportion of time possible, each man should actually be under inspection. This is material in all cases, that the inspector may have the satisfaction of knowing, that the discipline actually has the effect which it is designed to have” (Bentham)

Yes but [ insert idiot here] ….. you say:

  • idiot #1: You shouldn’t have run the red light then.
  • Response: Nice try, but the issue is not about running red lights, it’s about the fact that the cameras are there after we voted against them.
  • idiot #2: Studies (insert ridiculous reference to CNN or whatever) show that these red light cameras reduce the incidence of accidents etc.
  • Response: Well isn’t that nice. But even if it were true,and once again, the issue is not about whether or not they prevent this or that, but why they are even there in the first place after we voted against it.
  • idiot #3: The city has a duty to fulfill its contractual obligation to the company that manufactures and operates the cameras. They will be fined millions if they break the contract.
  • Response: Well then they should have thought about that before signing the contract. We were not given a choice on whether or not we wanted to take them down 3 years from now, we voted to take them down now.
  • idiot #4: What are you worried about? Even though the cameras are still on and flash when you run the red light, they are not on in the sense that they no longer result in a ticket being sent in the mail.
  • Response: Well, yes they do?, and secondly, I didn’t vote on whether or not I wanted a ticket in the mail, I voted on the use of the cameras in the first place. You see, seeing that light flash in my mirror is just as bad, if not worse, than getting a ticket for it, because it reminds me that there is always the chance that I will get a ticket, even if I can get it thrown out (by wasting time writing, calling, showing up somewhere). It also reminds me that the people who gave us the choice don’t really give a shit and that they are going to do whatever they want anyway.

The ramifications

What kind of message does it send to the people when you give them a choice, and then take it back like a 3 year-old on the playground that is not happy because she got tagged “it.” That’s what voting is for: to gauge the sentiment of the people. And it is your (politician I’m talking to you) job to represent the sentiment of the people. That’s why we elected you. So get off your fat asses and start doing your job correctly.

The point of the camera is not so much in making the city extra revenue, or about saving you from an accident,

its about reminding you that “the man” is always watching you, and can inconvenience you at any time and for anything. And if you are bothered by that then tough, that’s your problem. Find a way to get past the hardwired reactions in your brain,learn to turn it all off, or go back to playing on your computer. Or better yet, go read a book.

Selected Writings on Utilitarianism (Wordsworth Classics of World Literature) by Jeremy Bentham. With an introduction by Ross Harrison.ISBN-10: 1840221119

In the spirit of Maddox

7,8894,004 people have had their emotional affect violated by the man since the vote passed to take down the red light cameras.

7 thoughts on “Houston Red Light Cameras and giving voters the middle-finger

  1. Yes, thanks for that Andrew. We all wish accidents didn’t happen. Now, the grown-ups want to talk, so you go back to your cartoons.

  2. You do not have to pay tickets sent by red light camera companies. You can just ignore them.

    Your point stands, though. They were voted down and should therefore come down.

  3. I, too, voted and was enraged when I heard about what Mayor Parker was doing. Not a day goes by that I don’t get ticked off when I see that flash go off.

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