war on wheels: unhealthy at any speed

The war on cars. reclaim your streets. From the outset the car was associated with stardom, wealth and the American Dream. From the outset it was a fetish object initially associated with the upper classes in the first decades of the twentieth century since it fulfilled a passion for fashionableness and possession and was the trophy of conspicuous consumption. It was a total absurdity that people associated car travel with the frontier spirit and leaving civilization behind. The basic idea, since Day 1, was that the car helped you break free of the evil of conformity. It was an instrument of individuality. Where would Kerouac’s On The Road be without the automobile? There just doesn’t seem to be enough reasons for young men not to grow up.  The car became the symbol of resisting the system. In fact, the frenzied ecstasy associated with the car have long become an official aesthetic of consumer society.

The "organo mechanism" Diego Rivera. Dancelike and hypntoic, ritualistic in feel; the assembly line is represented by Rivera as a personification of the myth, ritual and historical actuality of this new America which defined itself by industrial capacity. Read More:http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/R2WtY3ex_WMiSfX5A0LHag

Cars dominate our cities, polluting, congesting and dividing communities. They have isolated people from one another, and our streets have become simple conduits for motor vehicles to trudge through, oblivious of the neighbourhoods they are disrupting. Cars have created social voids; allowing people to move further and further away from their homes; also dispersing and fragmenting daily activities and lives and increasing social anonymity. No doubt,  discarding society of the car would permit a more appealing living environment,and return streets to the people that live on them and perhaps to rediscover a sense of “social solidarity”.

---The privatisation of public space in the form of the car continues the erosion of neighbourhood and community that defines the metropolis. Road schemes, business 'parks', shopping developments - all add to the disintegration of community and the flattening of a locality. Everywhere becomes the same as everywhere else. Community becomes commodity - a shopping village, sedated and under constant surveillance. The desire for community is then fulfilled elsewhere, through spectacle,...To rescue what is left of the public arena, to enlarge and transform that arena from a selling and increasingly sold space to a common, free space - from controlled locality to local control - is fundamental to the vision of reclaiming the streets. The logic of this vision implies, not only ending the rule of the car and recreating community, but also the liberation of the streets from the wider rule of hierarchy and domination. From economic, ethnic and gender oppressions. From the consumerism, surveillance, advertising and profit-making that reduces both people and planet to saleable objects. Read More:http://www.eco-action.org/dod/no6/rts.htm image:http://www.classicshoptalk.com/content/section/205-classic-car-truck-museum-news-page4.html

But cars are just one piece of the issue and there is also other points about raising the wider questions behind the transport issue – about the political and economic forces which drive automobile culture and all the businesses leaching onto  it. . Governments claim that roads are good for the economy. So, that means more goods traveling on further journeys, more gas being burnt, more consumers at Smart centers etc.  Ultimately, its all about  increasing consumer spending, because that is an indicator of economic growth, that symbolic paragon of prosperity and historical progress. . It’s the avaricious, short-term exploitation of dwindling resources regardless of costs. It has to fit into the election cycle. Therefore, an attack on the automobile is impossible to regard in a vacuum- separated  wider critique on the market economy, the bond market, credit ratings etc.

Theodor Adorno:And which auto-driver has not felt the temptation, in the power of the motor, to run over the vermin of the street – passersby, children, bicyclists? In the movements which machines demand from their operators, lies already that which is violent, crashing, propulsively unceasing in Fascist mistreatment. Not the least fault for the dying out of experience is due to the fact that things assume a form under the law of their purposiveness which restrict their interaction to mere application, without the surplus – were it that of freedom of behavior, were it that of the autonomy of the thing – which might survive as the kernel of experience, because it is not consumed by the moment of action. Read More:http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/adorno/1951/mm/ch01.htm image:http://www.squidoo.com/hot-rods-kustoms-lowriders-gassers-and-other-custom-cars

Yves Engler:

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. households earning less than $15,000 a year own a car, and in an extreme example of auto dependence, tens of thousands of “mobile homeless” live in their vehicles.

The poor purchase cars because there is no other option in a society built to serve the needs of the automobile.  If you want to work you need a car.  If you want to visit your friends you need a car.

Car-dominated transport eats up a disproportionate amount of working-class income.  At the same time, the automobile is an important means for the wealthy to assert themselves socially.  A luxury vehicle lets the

e world know that you have arrived, both literally and metaphorically.  ”The automobile’s a credit card on wheels,” writes Heathcote Williams.  ”It’s pushy to tell people how much you make, so you tell ‘em through your automobile.’’ Read More:http://yvesengler.com/2010/09/30/class-struggle-against-car-domination/


---John Sloan -- "Indian Detour" -- 1927 -- buses, tourists, and travelers surround a group so Santa Fe Indians while performing a ritual dance! No longer is it the wagons surrounding migrating settlers, as was the case in the 19th century. A new era of freedom, indeed. Read More:http://automobileandamericanlife.blogspot.com/2010/08/john-sloan-his-paintings-that-included.html

Rick Salutin:Yves Engler and Bianca Mugyenyi with their new book, Stop Signs: Cars and Capitalism on the Road to Economic, Social and Ecological Decay.  You want a real war on cars? This is it.

They blame the car for everything evil. Like what? Obesity. Okay, maybe, along perhaps with the decay of downtowns as people who could afford cars moved to the burbs. But Twitter? Absolutely. Obsessive brevity began with highway billboards that had to contain only enough words to be readable as those new car-thingies whizzed by. And 9/11 too! Cars need oil for gas and the Mideast had it. So in 1953 when a mildly nationalist Iranian government tried to control its own oil, the U.S. staged a coup, followed by years of repression under which the only places opposition could safely gather were mosques. Hence the growth of religious extremism and rage at the West culminating in 9/11.

It’s weird how the accumulation of arguments starts to feel persuasive. You question whether your own auto-programming has blinded you….

---I found out that the pictures were made by David Perry. This photographer started to document the underground hot rod culture in California back in 1991. He has published multiple books, and has worked for companies like Apple and Comme des Garçons....Read More:http://dyedinred.blogspot.com/2010/08/girls-and-cars.html

…As your resistance weakens, Engler-Mugyenyi don’t. There’s no such thing as a green car. Ouch. Most pollution occurs not on the roads but in producing these metallic, space-occupying, mostly idle beasts. The pollution costs of making a Hummer are less than a Honda Civic. Double ouch. The major source of water pollution is oil leakage from cars on highways. Read More:http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/994312–salutin-rob-ford-versus-the-anti-carriors


---Picabia represented himself as a composite horn-cylinder-spark plug appropriate for a man who was to own some 120 cars during the course of his life...these works were more elusive, less concerned with the accurate depiction of real machine parts, than in manipulating the formal properties of various fragments of largely unrecognizable machines. In transforming the modest portraits of 291 into large-scale paintings on board, Picabia was reenacting the process used in his earlier transformation of the small New York watercolors into the enormous abstractions painted upon his return to Paris. It is impossible to overlook the transformation that took place in such a brief span of time. In early 1914, Picabia was fully committed to exploring the language and ambition of abstract painting; in early 1915 Picabia had turned himself completely around. In adopting the machine and its metaphorical potential, he had returned to the language of representation, to the depiction of things in the world. Read More:http://www.toutfait.com/online_journal_details.php?postid=1235


“The cars that fill the streets have narrowed the pavements.. [If] pedestrians … want to look at each other, they see cars in the background, if they want to look at the building across the street they see cars in the foreground: there isn’t a single angle of view from which cars will not be visible, from the back, in front, on both sides. Their omnipresent noise corrodes every moment of contemplation like acid.” ( Milan Kundera, Immortality )

Yves Engler: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/

Thomas Frank ( The Baffler) :The patron saints of the countercultural idea are, of course, the Beats, whose frenzied style and merry alienation still maintain a powerful grip on the American imagination. Even forty years after the publication of On the Road, the works of Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs remain the sine qua non of dissidence, the model for aspiring poets, rock stars, or indeed anyone who feels vaguely artistic or alienated. That frenzied sensibility of pure experience, life on the edge, immediate gratification, and total freedom from moral restraint, which the Beats first propounded back in those heady days when suddenly everyone could have their own TV and powerful V-8, has stuck with us through all the intervening years and become something of a permanent American style. Go to any poetry reading and you can see a string of junior Kerouacs go through the routine, upsetting cultural hierarchies by pushing themselves to the limit, straining for that gorgeous moment of original vice when Allen Ginsberg first read “Howl” in 1955 and the patriarchs of our fantasies recoiled in shock. Read More:http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/f/frank-dissent.htm

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