As I said over at The Consumer Trap, in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, there is an uncontrolled gusher of conventional “everybody’s to blame” dogma parading around passing itself off as serious social criticism.
This phony, knee-jerk analysis is merely the flip-side of the capitalist dogma insisting that demand for products arises exclusively from spontaneous popular wishes and unsullied technological innovations only, no corporate manipulation involved. It’s an excuse and a denial, in other words.
What we need now is realistic descriptions of and remedies for the institutionalized, class-based decisions that continue to impose petro-intensive living on human societies. Swallowing the familiar trope that the main problem resides in your looking glass is a step away from, not toward, such realism.
Meanwhile, this new DbC page is dedicated to collecting examples of the mental virus that denies the existence of an overclass and blames “us” all instead. Please feel free to send in cases you encounter.
DbC Hall of Mirrors Inductees:
Chris Clugston: With zero evidence to back his assertions, Clugston claims “Americans ‘just don’t get it’ regarding the unsustainable nature of our American way of life,” and that anger at BP is a “self-righteous” distraction from the deeper fact that we have met the enemy and it is us.
Peter Fowler: “If BP Is Evil Then So Are We All,…because we demand the oil they are forced to take these sorts of risks to get.” So, in Fowler’s telling, coerced acceptance equals policy origination.
Joanna Weiss: Weiss frets, “I couldn’t help but wonder how much I should hate myself.” She talks of “our oil-drenched lifestyles” as if we all asked for them and would refuse to consider alternatives, if given a choice. Joanna thinks cars-first transportation comes from a “culture of expansion,” not corporate capitalist dictatorship. Evidence for any of these claims? None, and none needed. They are merely true by statement, since they replicate conventional business-society tropes.
From the beginning, corporations and allied planners and politicians have promoted the automobile with large doses of syrupy propaganda about its overwhelming wonders and benignity. This wave of dogma routinely includes paeans to the automobile’s allegedly democratic and egalitarian nature. According to Rutgers University transportation engineer James A. Dunn, for example, not only does “the auto provide a kind of individualist equality that is particularly well suited to American values,” but owning and driving cars “unites [Americans] across class, racial, ethnic, and religious lines as few other aspects of our society can.”
Alas, Dunn seems not to have examined the most basic data on the distribution of automobiles in the United States, to say nothing of the world. If he had bothered to do so, he might have discovered that, contrary to long-running industry intimations and intellectual pre-suppositions, cars are, in fact, one of the most unequally distributed product categories in the United States.
Here is a table I just assembled from the most recent Consumer Expenditure Survey:
As you can see, the rich are savers/investors, but they also dominate spending. New vehicle spending in particular.
That sucking sound you hear? A century’s worth of cars = freedom + democracy incantation going into the flushbowl, where it belongs.
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