Monday, August 20, 2007

Dissed allusion

I want to say that I hate cars. This is a strong sentiment, especially from someone who does not really believe the word "hate" belongs in everyday parlance. But it is tough for me to ignore how I feel; and when the way I feel carries such strong conviction, I have to express it.

Cars are an illusion. We have built our entire society around the use and enjoyment of automobiles. That facade is the only thing that makes car culture seem a reality. We have created car culture and we have created the "need" to own and operate automobiles on a daily basis. Cars are a crutch. This is an assertion that goes a step beyond and it necessitates that you can at least recognize the vague outline of the facade and begin to understand the holographic nature of the illusion. Society may collectively create and uphold the illusion, but we, as individuals, daily fill our roles as supporting columns in the artifice. Thus, we have the power, as individuals, to challenge the assumptions of society and others at large. Cars are a convenience, a contrivance, a nuisance. Who does not complain about the costs of automobile ownership? Who really could claim that all those hundreds of dollars per month, thousands of dollars per year, make any sense? Yet, so many go on buying into it, never earnestly questioning the insanity.

Have you ever thought beyond the scope of your own costs of automobile ownership? Have you thought about the mass subsidization of automobile culture? Yeah, that's right -- car drivers do not, and could not ever hope to, pay their own way. The next time you drive through a road construction zone (and hopefully, by the way, you slow down and respect the lives of the workers) think about the sheer labor hours and equipment expense you're witnessing. All of that so that we can operate our cars on safe, relatively smooth roads that will take us where we want to go. Sure, a lot of that money for road construction and maintenance comes out of gasoline taxes, but it all doesn't. Many who can't or don't operate automobiles are subsidizing those efforts. The government and auto industries are subsidizing it. Insurance companies are subsidizing it, too. The fact is the price of the automobile extends way beyond the immediate pain each one of us feels writing checks for payments to the bank and insurance company, or filling the tank with gas. When you drive a car you are literally drawing upon a resource pool that taps into nearly all areas of our society. Driving a care is a privilege, not a right.

I don't read much that pops up on my MSN home page. But today, I noticed a storyline -- "Will milk reach $5 a gallon?" Milk -- a staple of many Americans' diets. Milk -- at the base of the USDA food pyramid. And, for all the food pyramid's flaws, milk is a pretty good nutrient for human sustenance. I consider milk a hell of a lot more important to humans than gasoline. But I'd wager that most people don't care. But gasoline -- sub gasoline in that storyline and you'd get a bold, top-o'-the-page headline followed by stories of violence at the pumps and increased road rage and all sorts of crazy, wacky fall-out. Well, get ready. $5/gallon gasoline will come ... pretty damn soon. It might serve folks well to begin thinking about the human machine a little more. Try drinking down a gallon of gas and getting very far. However, the 2350 or so calories in a gallon of milk could carry a cyclist at a moderate pace 45-50 miles or more. This logic may seem pretty wacked out -- the idea of food as fuel. But in an age where more and more people are trying to figure out how to get fit, it truly seems one answer is to quit leaning on the crutch of the automobile.

And once that happens, once more and more people begin to see that life is indeed possible without constant reliance on cars, then real change can happen.

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