It is the triumph of capitalist rationality. Call it Fordism. The dark side, apparent from the beginning, is the dangerous temptation of an inhuman but very rational drive toward profit. Fascism. There is no doubt that the landscape created by cars is deeply isolating and a pessimism toward the automobile lifestyle is warranted.
Is it a lie to say that urban space dominated by cars is good for poor and working class people? Is it, as Yves Engler has asserted, a form of class war to make life difficult for cars; a war that works in the long-term interests of the poor and working class? Questioning the sanctity of the automobile in North America is tantamount to a secular heresy, but the arguments of Engler and co-author Bianca Mugyenyi are both compelling and intuitively coherent. In fact, they’re flawless through a kind of inverse logic that picks up on the original critique of the car by thinkers such as painter John Sloan and places it within our present context where there is so much dependency on the car as a cash cow: tolls, permits, parking, fines, repairs, fuel taxes, fuel etc etc. that there is no political will to alter the system. In truth, this is Industrial age thinking that is no longer sustainable.
…any move to curtail car domination is an attack against the little guy because automobiles give everyone equal access to mobility. In a Wall Street Journal opinion article, Stephen Moore captured the essence of this argument. ”The car allowed even the common working man total freedom of mobility — the means to go anywhere, anytime, for any reason. In many ways, the automobile is the most egalitarian invention in history, dramatically bridging the quality-of-life gap between rich and poor.”…
…The car’s proponents invoke class even though all other forms of land transportation are eminently more accessible. Shoes, a bike, or a metro pass is cheaper than a car with its gas, insurance and upkeep needs. According to the American Public Transportation Association, individuals who get around with a bus pass instead of a car can save a whopping $8,368 annually. Read More:http://yvesengler.com/2010/09/30/class-struggle-against-car-domination/
The basis of Engler’s critique is not new. In the 1940’s Billy Wilder in Sunset Boulevard was critical of the development of car infrastructure and this was echoed by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno who related this to the fascist tenor of Italian futurism. The critique begins with the premise that mass transit brings different kinds of people together but in contrast, the car is isolating both the driver and the communities spread out along the freeway.
It is pretty much forgotten now, but for a brief moment at the beginning of the twentieth century the interurban trolley system was a rival to the car. At the time, Americans welcomed the trolley since it offered an exit from the unsanitary horse cars, and took riders to more places than the railroad. In contrast to the anxiety-inducing city, the trolley promoted something that was termed “brain health” at the time.
Why, then, is America covered with highways and biways instead of public rail? The culprit is the genius of marketing; the heart stirring appeal to American individualism, and its cultural exceptionalism which needed material representaton. ie: status and dinstinction. The trolley was crowded and mainly with poor immigrants. The car offered the case for individual autonomy. The moment of equity between trolley and automobile was soon over; exasperated by urban reformers, and later public money from the New Deal which realized the promise of the automobile through this form of public subsidy.
In 1991 a conference of British crime writers was asked “how would you kill someone?”. Many ingenious means were proposed, some of which might make excellent mysteries: push them out the porthole, stab them with an icicle. Curiously, the commonest and most practical method suggested was to run them over with a car. Not only is the criminal already in the getaway vehicle when the crime is committed, but even if caught the punishment is likely to be footling. The alarming leniency shown towards murderous motorists is perhaps related to the dissonance between the declared purpose of penal justice and its practical results. To judge by these results, the chief function of legal punishments is not to deter crime but to create, consolidate and train an active criminal class. The spectre of such a subculture makes the rest of society more like a prison in its turn. We become fearful of leaving our cells and begin to regard our warders as protectors rather than oppressors. For criminality to be effectively terrifying it needs the figure of the rapist, the mugger, the burglar, the inexplicable outsider who strikes in the darkness, not the drunken sales rep driving home from the office party. Where fear of the outsider promotes conformity, fear of the sales rep promotes rebellion. So hit-and-run drivers do not get the publicity of serial killers. Their victims are just as dead….
…In fact the laxity of punitive measures against deadly drivers is just one of a skein of double standards used to belittle the dangers of traffic. Politicians will dismiss a rise in crime figures as “mostly traffic offences”, whilst becoming quite apoplectic about car theft and joyriding. Police complain that they wanted to catch villains but have “ended up on traffic duty”. A single death in a rail-crash is headline news, meriting a public enquiry and the resignation of transport ministers, whilst the most horrific of motorway pileups is hardly worth a mention in the press.
In India the cow is supposedly a sacred animal to which motorists must give way. Nowhere in the world is the human being similarly sacred. Read More:http://www.eco-action.org/dt/awaycars.html
One reason the car was popular among the wealthy was because it strengthened their dominance over mobility, which was slightly undermined by rail. Prior to the train’s ascendance in the mid-1800s, the elite traveled by horse and buggy, but the train’s technological superiority compromised the usefulness of the horse and buggy. Even for shorter commutes, streetcars became the preferred mode of transport by the late 1800s. With respect to mobility, the train and streetcar blurred class lines. Unlike the train and streetcar, which were more available to all classes of society, the automobile provided an exclusive form of travel.
The automobile’s capacity to create social distance appealed to early car buyers. In a car, one could remain separate from perceived social inferiors (blue-collar workers, immigrants, blacks etc.) while in transit. Prominent auto historian, James J. Flink remarked that, “the automobile seemed, to proponents of the innovation, to afford a simple solution to some of the more formidable problems of American life associated with the emergence of an urban industrial society.” Read More:http://yvesengler.com/2010/09/30/class-struggle-against-car-domination/