In 2016 in the United States, a total of 65,284 people under the age of 25 died, from all natural and artificial causes. Of these children, 24,005, or 37 percent, were killed in automotive collisions. This result was not an anomaly. It is a feature, not a bug, of our socio-economic order. Car crashes are the clear, long-standing #1 killer of American children. It is not a close contest, either.
On this day of rallies for sanity and democracy and public health, I think this literally unremarked fact is worth mentioning.
Maybe someday, we, the people, will shatter the Great Taboo on telling the truth about cars-first transportation in America. We’d better, because that core institution is speeding us to Carmageddon, whether we notice it or not.
After yet another school slaughter, the silenced majority of Americans may — in our market-totalitarian cultural and media ecology, it is no easy thing, so don’t bet on it — finally be getting outraged enough to deal some defeats to our gun-nut Know Nothing faction, which has, through the shamelessly pandering of the Republican Party, been running murderously amok for a couple of decades now.
Having said that, let us ponder a related fact that remains unmentioned and unmentionable in our society, yet might be of some interest to the actually sane and ethical: In the United States, the leading killer of young people is — by far — the supposed “freedom machine” known as the automobile.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, in 2016, a total of 3,969 high-school-aged children — kids aged 14-17, that is — died in U.S. car crashes.
For U.S. children aged 0-17, the 2016 car crash death toll was 9,787.
Adopting the biologically modern definition of childhood, which recognizes that the human brain actually reaches full maturity only at about age 25, we might also ask how many individuals aged 0-24 died on U.S. car crashes in 2016. The answer to that question is 24,005. That works out to 66 such deaths per day.
So, 3,969; 9.787; 24,005…and, although such numbers are utterly predictable and built into the very infrastructure of our famous way of life, despite our self-flattering talk about no child being left behind, only the crickets chirp about such satanic digits.
There’s a story to that, of course. Coherent reporting and analysis of the true costs and benefits our cars-first transportation order is, for pretty obvious reasons, anathema in mainstream politics and media. Unfortunately, due to its own fearfulness and vulnerability to long-running propanganda about the masses’ supposed “love affair with the automobile,” what passes for the political left has never yet dared to explain how directly and deeply the reign of the car in America expresses the preferences of our corporate capitalist overclass, not Joe and Jane Nascar.
As a result, the society, whole planet in tow, keeps speeding toward Carmageddon and our children keep paying the ultimate price. Without so much as a word, and to almost nobody’s outrage.
Mostly to automate long- and short-distance delivery driving (i.e., to further reduce labor costs), the overclass is sponsoring a huge and massively hyped research project, in hopes of coming up with robo-trucks and robo-taxis. So, imagine a triple trailer running on “AI” as you watch this video of a Tesla driver saving at least two cars full of people from “autopilot” catastrophe:
Turns out that successfully driving automobiles — and success kills 40,000 a year in the USA and 1.25 million worldwide — is extremely complex.
Massive personal and collective harm are features, nut bugs, in cars-first transportation. Basing everyday locomotion on heavy, complex, independently-steered boxes traveling at high speeds is never going to become compatible with anything like maximum personal safety and overall ecological sustainability. The laws of physics are, as Billy Bragg once observed, very, very strict.
None of this prevents those who prosper from the sociopathic reign of the automobile from pushing, with the help (or at least the non-resistance) of those who should know better, the delusion that better roads and cars are somehow, someway going to be enough.
Witness the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility, which expresses legitimate alarm over the fact that 90 percent of the “1.25 million people killed on the world’s roads each year and another 20-50 million seriously injured” are residents of the Third World, but proposes to solve this problem by massively deepening the world’s reliance on automobiles.
According to the World Bank, what is needed in the Third World is more conventional development (“integration” in WB lingo), so that the Third World can become like the First World, where the level of “traffic safety” is, it says, just fine and dandy.
Should we somehow manage to transcend it and pass on the basis for further human progress, our grandchildren will want to laugh and vomit over such high-minded nonsense, which would be hugely obvious and repulsive in any age not utterly lobotomized by its own ruling ideas.
I have a vision of living forever in perfect ease and amusement. This vision is of precisely the same quality as the various visions of those promoting and accommodating the continuing reign of the automobile, who have taken to saying they dream of the inherently unsafe and unsustainable product that is and always will be the lifeblood of our epoch’s outdated socio-economic order one day becoming safe and sustainable. Like I said…
Of course, when the “vision” talk emanates from the world’s third largest maker of the machine in question, you know you’re well past the territory of Orwell and Huxley.
To wit, this.
Only in age like ours, one entirely soaked in overclass bullshit, could such a statement not draw outraged howls. But there it sits.
It’s something of an insult to children, but it’s hard not to be struck by the profound childishness of American culture. That outcome is largely a result of the social primacy of corporate marketing, which has long been the main engine of off-the-job ideations and activities in this society. Big business marketing places a premium on encouraging juvenile mindsets, which optimize the brain for absorbing and acting on implanted sales stimuli.
Selling corporate capitalism’s most important product, which promotes and embodies childish fantasies about pure independence and unlimited resources, is squarely part of the infantilizing wave. To wit, this shameless TV ad:
Speaking of kids, you have to wonder what our grandchildren will make of such amazing narcissistic idiocy, should they somehow get lucky and inherit the capacity for remembering and studying human history. And this stuff is very carefully planned, not a mere accident.
New York City is making the McKibbenite gesture of no longer receiving any of the profits from corporate production of fossil fuels. To what effect? More money for other cities and capitalists, and not much else, on one side. On the other, something truly harmful — perpetuation of self-satisfaction and delusion among the very people who ought to be pushing for ecological reconstruction of our towns and our society.
Anton Davis explains the point well on today’s CounterPunch:
Divestment [from fossil fuels corporations]…is the equivalent of the patient being told diet and exercise can cure their late stage cancer. The patient must be given a clear diagnosis and asked if they wish to undertake the treatment which will save them. The survival of the planet will then be for its inhabitants to decide.
DbC isn’t sure if divestment is even that strong a medicine, actually, though Davis’s point is a good one. How does divesting from massively internally profitable businesses do anything to hurt those businesses? It’s not like Exxon is or soon will be a money-losing operation.
Call us here at DbC when NYC says it is going to ban automobiles and advocate nationalization of energy corporations. Until then, here’s hoping Houstonites enjoy the cash New Yorkers won’t be getting as they continue to smugly skirt the topic of cars-first transportation…
Ford Motor Company CEO Jim Hackett is at the Consumer Electronics Show — the “Global Stage for Innovation” no less! (nobody ever said decrepit elites learn humility as they necrose) — today revealing some info about how his corporation is planning to keep selling its massively outdated product and, incidentally, to thereby keep the American population ensconced in market totalitarianism. As ever, the bedrock material basis for that latter outcome, so vital to our runaway overclass, is perpetuation of cars-first transportation.
Doing that, of course, requires deepening the already huge primacy of the automobile in urban planning, at a time when doing so is patently ecocidal and sociopathic.
At this point, this is going to require a new level of explicitness, as one can tell by this Automotive News headline:
Hackett says Ford expanding mobility vision beyond cars to cities
In order to peddle the “self-driving” products they obviously see as the next trick to make cars look modern rather than archaic, the automotive industrialists know they’ll have to build massive computing power into the physical features of towns and cities. Hence, this kind of stuff.
Of course, DbC remains more than a little unsure any of this will actually ever come to much fruition, as it would require huge breakthroughs in technological capability and reliability, as well as in theories of legal non-liability.
Luckily for people like Mr. Hackett, the automobile remains sacrosanct in this society. Even our concerned scientists and sputtering proto-social-movements still fear to mention it, as they scramble to euphemize their way around its catastrophic portents.