Car Culture, Indeed

The forces of reason and human progress have done a particularly lousy job of explaining the immense problems inherent in cars-first transportation, which remains, despite the times and for very deep reasons, a central project of corporate capitalism.

When such forces have dipped their toes into the pool of analysis, they have often done so by observing that, in America, we have a “car culture.” This, of course, is a tautology. The question is why we have a car culture.

Here, well-meaning folks have either parroted the longstanding — and hugely preposterous — quasi-official dogma that “Americans are having a love affair with the autmobile” is all there is to know about this key subject, or we have simply fallen silent, leaving such petulant falsehoods unchallenged.

I mention all this because one of the things that’s happened in the process is that, having chalked the topic of cars up to the realm of the inexplicable, the self-same forces of reason and progress have also stopped paying attention to how automobiles do indeed act and react as elements of American culture.

Consider, for example, yesterday’s multiply-gobsmacking announcement, by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, of “the most powerful SUV ever.”

Where would this corporation be without the continuing hold of toxic masculinity, nationalism, cowboy mythology, and sheer childishness? And, conversely, what would happen to those declining but still very pertinent trends among us “Americans,” if our main industry and #1 sponsorship source weren’t carefully perpetuating things like this?

We don’t know and generally don’t ask, in large part because the forces of reason and progress don’t pay any attention to such matters.