See more articles, reviews, fiction and poetry, including more of my writings, at group blog PLUTO'S REALM.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Little Boxes on the Highway

Perhaps my main reason for resuming these Diaries was to get some personal truths out of my head, get them expressed. By that I mean that, in contrast to those ideas that come and go, and change - as did my attitudes toward "politics" and "spiritual practice" during the course of the first incarnation of this blog - there are some ideas that remain constant. These I think are worth examining and expressing, because they have been around and reaffirmed enough in my consciousness as to actually express part of my "self".

One of the most resolute of these "fixed ideas" came to me as I was driving back to Nashville from Manchester last Sunday. I was on I-24, which is not the worst interstate in the world, but a typical melange of passenger cars, work vehicles, 18-wheelers, motorcycles, horse trailers, RV's, and whatever else might be out on a sunny Sunday afternoon. All that would be missing to call this Chaos would be to move it to Thailand and throw in a few pigs and chickens.

As I was alternatively passing and being passed in my Toyota Corolla by all these random entities, it occurred to me, as it occasionally does, that should one of the larger victims make a wrong move, or should I, I would be immediately annihilated, or mangled so badly I'd wish that I had been. As defensive driving courses (I'm sure) would teach you, right or wrong has no meaning in a crash. It's all down to vectors and force, the sheer laws of physics. Once the Mac truck hits a motorcycle, all the human, philosophical, spiritual, intellectual elements are gone - merely unevenly sized pool balls on a break.

When considering the origins of this mess, all sorts of philosophical, legal, historical and legal factors come into account. The selection of vehicles on the highway is the spawn of both the auto and transportation industries, and separate entities. But before we get into all that, what's the solution? It's not the reason behind the problem that matters so much as the solution.

The answer that comes to me, repeatedly, after thirty years or so of considering this mess, is to (1)remove the trucks from the highway, and (2) to mandate that everyone on it drive a uniform vehicle.

The early reactions to my hint about this blog entry, in the previous one, suggests that the readers thought I was going to be advocating mass transit. Which I am, where possible. Having lived in San Francisco with its amazing system(s), to return to Nashville into standardized American chaos, where each person drives his own 2,000-lb monster to work each day, was a re-entry shock (OK, it was as bad in Albuquerque - I'm abbreviating). OK we now have HOV lanes and the cars are a bit smaller, the fuel a bit closer to its true cost. But still..

But mass transit is not the total solution for passenger travel in all but the most concentrated parts of the US population. Although I believe that a corollary measure - a mandatory national rail system for freight - is essential. There's no way that a load of bricks or shit or computers moving from Atlanta to Nashville, or wherever, needs to be driven in a series of trucks. The trucks really only need to come into play once the cargo reaches the urban center or region of its destination. What to do with it, once it gets there, to keep these killer behemoths (the 18-wheelers) off the road during rush hour, is to do just that - to regulate which roads, and when the trucks can function for urban delivery. There is no reason I should need to compete with them at 8 a.m. at lunch or at 5. Or on certain roads, at all.

While the country is searching for ways to revitalize the job market (and THAT is a topic I can't even touch in this entry), how about instead of even more road work, build a national rail system? Harken back to the days of the WPA. Or Europe after WWII (after the Americans and British destroyed all the old systems)? Yeah, there's that nasty funding issue - we'll get to that. But do it! And make them (the corporations) use it!

As to the cars - why does my Corolla need to run the risk of being rear-ended by a 1978 Pontiac Parisienne? Why does a Dodge Ram compete with a Prius? (I'm out of step with modern vehicle names, so forgive my last of creativity). It comes to consideration of our fucked-up concepts of both personal freedom and free enterprise.

Are you outraged that the government might tell you what kind of vehicle to buy? Really? Have you been so indoctrinated by the religion of Consumerism that you believe that Freedom consists of your freedom to choose between an iPhone and an Android one, or between shaving creams, or cars? To choose one consumer product over another (all while the PC media whispers and shouts to you which one is "really" best)? While the government erodes your most basic rights - your rights to go to school or church with whom you choose, to join clubs of your peers instead of the homogenized mass - your freedom of association? Your freedom even over your own body - and I'm not beating the abortion cow here, I'm talking about your right to choose to live or die in a hospice or nursing home or a prison, or to bleed to death in some oil or battlefield? And you wanna choose between your Hundai or your Ford? Are you that far gone?

All these issues are going to be addressed very extensively in the articles that follow. But let me suggest to you how to begin to clear your head. It takes a while. Step one: turn off the TV. Disconnect the cable. Or make sure you DVR everything and edit out the commercials. And don't watch the news. Search for your info in print or on the internet, find a "cooler" medium (and read your McLuhan if you don't know what I mean). Get the voices of the Masters out of your head. [Zen is all about shutting up your own voice. That comes later. First get the others out.]

Back on topic: "We" need to require that only one make and model of passenger vehicle be made. The contracts can be allocated out among existing manufacturers; I don't care. Everyone needs to drive an identical box. This ensures that when those inevitable collisions ensue, the result will be more like a game of bumper-cars that the uneven carnage we see now. Make them relatively slow and extremely crash-resistent. And make them all the same size and weight. You can have whatever color you want.

And if you want to drive a motorcycle, fine. Take off all the safety requirement for those. It's a perfectly valid, high-risk option of personal choice. And there will need to be some pick-ups, of comparable size and weight with the vehicles. Level the field.

Think about it. Try to stop expressing your personality through your possessions, and learn to express it through your person.

But how is all this to be done? True, the existing government never could or would put it into place, for a myriad of reasons. Personal interest and corporate ownership, mostly. As well as the objections of a bunch of well-meaning "individualists" who have been so co-opted by the Powers that Be that they don't know what "rights" or "freedom" mean anymore. Take the Tea Party. Or the current unconscious Puppet of Those Who Really Control, the OWS mob.

That's all I can say here. Intrinsic in solving this pragmatic, logistical problem is liberation of the individual from the yolk of tyranny, counterintuitive as that may sound. But we'll be working on that, in the next few entries. Or next lot of them, maybe. Maybe interrupted by some fun.

Stay with me, people...

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