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.
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”.
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.
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/
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….
…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
“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 )
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