I've been pondering this for some time now, and it's certainly not an original idea; however, I wanted to put it in writing anyway. It seems that I notice people doing things in their cars that they would not ever do as a pedestrian or a cyclist. I don't know what it is about the feeling of security and anonymity that a 3,000 pound cage affords its occupants, but it's a pretty powerful thing. I've noticed since moving into an urban neighborhood with loads of pedestrians that my neighbors seem so much more human, more real, less like items in a human filing cabinet. And somehow I think this is in direct correlation that we, as a whole, spend much less time "dehumanizing" every single day than most of our counterparts in the suburbs.
I've also noticed this same phenomenon on the bike when someone was done something really stupid in traffic to me, only to get caught at the next red light next to me. Almost invariably these people squirm when I look at them directly, since I'm no longer just an obstacle on their path. I'm now an actual human being who is looking at them face to face... someone's son... a fiance... a father... an actual person.
When this happens, I think of the larger repercussions of auto culture and how it's destroying our communities in a very profound way. As people drive more and more miles every single day, they spend more time seeing other people as simply occupants of an obstacle. It takes the human completely out of the equation, and that idea is very powerful to me, as someone who spends very little time surrounded by obstacles and much more surrounded by, well, people.
Anyway, that was just a thought I had today on the bike. Take it for what it's worth.