The Enemy: Cars or Capitalists?

david_suzuki David Suzuki is calling for a real war on cars.

That’s wonderful, especially coming from a person who has as much access to media as Dr. Suzuki.

Nevertheless, I feel obliged to note that Suzuki provides a rather feeble and technocratic definition of the problem at hand.  While enumerating some of the costs of cars-first transportation and naming some of the major personalities in the budding reaction against transportation reform, Suzuki offers only this diagnosis of what we’re ultimately up against:

“If there is or has been a war on cars, the cars are winning. Cars — often with a single occupant — still rule our cities and roadways.”

Certainly, there are few scientists in the world as well-informed and well-rounded as Dr. Suzuki.  Hence, he must know that the above sentence is a major piece of technological fetishism, a.k.a. forgetting that machines always express the human purposes of their designers and promoters.  But, nonetheless, Suzuki leaves his diagnosis of the enemy at that: cars.

But, cars don’t rule our highways. Cars don’t, in fact, do anything but embody the purposes for which they are designed and promoted.  What are those purposes, who sets them, and for what reason?  How important are those reasons to their primary beneficiaries?  Suzuki doesn’t say.

The truth, of course, is that the prevalence of both automobiles and their roadways within our lifespaces is first and foremost due to the power of our big business-based overclass, which is institutionally addicted to perpetuating cars-first transportation, regardless of the costs and dangers of doing so.  Our ultimate problem is not, then, that cars rule our highways.  It is that corporate capitalists rule our society and our lives.

Meanwhile, if we progressive survivalists remain too timid even to name the people and institutions we’re really up against, we will not only continue to lose potential allies (in my experience, people, including suburban SUV owners, generally know when they’re being soft-sold), but also continue to misunderstand the nature and gravity of the struggle we face.  A real war on cars is going to take epic work and epic honesty.  Techno-talk at the City Council, though important and necessary, is not going to get us to a decent future.

To quote Lisa Simpson, the truth must be told, and soon.