In praise of hobbyhorses

“Get off your hobbyhorse…”; “Stop banging on…”; “Can’t you just change the subject…” 


Pity the people who had to spend time with William Wilberforce when he was going off on yet another of his tirades about why it was wrong to turn darker-skinned people into slaves. Or Emily Pankhurst’s dinner companions as she launched into one of her speeches about why women ought to be allowed to vote. Or Thomas Parker or Wally Rippel as they… 

“Thomas Who?”; “Wally What?”. 
Unlike Wilberforce and Pankhurst, to be fair, Parker and Rippel didn’t propose a social revolution. All they wanted to do was get people to drive environmentally-friendly electric vehicles rather than fuel-guzzling, unsustainable petrol-driven ones. Which, I guess, is also revolutionary, but in a different way. Parker, who knew enough about electric locomotion to have introduced it for London’s subway system, actually built a car with a rechargeable battery in 1884. Interestingly, one of his motivations for doing so was a dislike of pollution that also drove him to invent a form of smokeless fuel.

Thomas Parker’s functioning 1884 electric car


A hundred years later, a team at General Motors led by Wally Rippel followed in Parker’s footsteps and built a batch of electric cars that were well received by the people who were allowed to test them, but mysteriously killed off and destroyed

Poster for Chris Paine’s 2006 movie about the
sabotaging of Wally Rippel & team’s
GM EV1 functioning electric car.

As director Chris Paine illustrated in his 2006 movie.

Today, thanks largely to prompting from Silicon Valley investors who were unafraid of the traditional motor industry and petroleum industries, electric cars are finally taking off, but it has taken an unconscionably long time. Maybe a little more banging-on and hobby-horse riding might have speeded things up. 

Which is why I make no apology about getting on my hobby horse and banging on about the DISGRACEFUL fact that the wine industry unashamedly continues to sell wine for hundreds of pounds/euros/dollars per bottle in packaging that is acknowledged to be unreliable. And why I’ll go on questioning madness such as the logic of banning the use of grape variety labelling on French wine labels. And challenging the logic of putting cheap wine in glass bottles…

If a few more people had been ready to join Wilberforce, Pankhurst, Parker et al in questioning the status quo, change might not only have happened more rapidly, but there maybe there’d have some rather more varied conversation at their dinner parties.

*******************

PS I’ve noticed that readers often take some of my analogies a little more literally than they were intended, so I’d like to stress that I’m not drawing any parallels between the efforts of the motor and oil industries to strangle electric cars and behaviour within the wine industry. 





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