Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Invisible Hand Points Again and Again the Earth Groans, Isn't That So Smith? 

watching the BBC news tonight there was a segment on Iraq's car/traffic growth.

before our invasion, when Hussein was in power, it's said a modest model Toyota went for $5,000. but now, due to the absence of tariffs or duty tax, the same car today is just $2,000.

this is good of course for folks with limited incomes whose lives would be made better by having a car for work and pleasure. i grew up in a rural countryside where the nearest public transportation was an hour away, so i empathize with such needs in similar situations in a world whose demands for survival are beyond horse and carriage.

i recall an argument i had with a friend when i first moved to the city, someone somehow associated with MOVE, or maybe she was just an active MOVE supporter. but anyway, she grew up in the city, and was telling me that i didn't need a car when i said i had needed a car where i grew up.

"of course i needed a car!"

"no you didn't. you and your family just THINK you needed a car. but you could have found a way to survive without one."

"it would be very difficult with the way the world operates."

"there you go, blaming 'the world' when really you should be blaming yourself. you want to see yourself as a victim to the world's dictates so that you don't have to take responsibility for your actions."

"it's possible to live in rural America without a car, but being independently wealthy might be that possibility, outside an intentional community like the Amish. although even they seem to rely on motor vehicles more and more these days."

"it's always about class with you."

"hey, it fits. i mean without a car out there you can't easily work. if you don't work you can't pay your mortgage --and more importantly maybe-- you can't pay your property taxes. you don't pay those then you're very soon going to wind up living near a bus station anyway."

"okay, but people DO use cars far more than they need to."

"yeah, hell yeah! i LOVED to drive, get in my car and drive far out of the woods and away from the fields and farms."

what is interesting in Iraq is all the necessities the world of cars creates, and it is clear that those necessities are needed when they're not there.

there has never been this many cars in Iraq before. so the obvious lack of traffic signals, signs, detours. and the lack of gas stations. not a lack of gas, but of gas stations. there are enormous lines of cars at the limited number of stations. gas (by the way) is 64 liters for one dollar over there!

it's so strange to see supply and demand so fiercely out of balance, especially in a situation where a country like Iraq is invaded by a country like ours, the most capitalist of capitalists.

of course the solutions seem obvious to us from our vantage: build more gas stations, better roads (with that many cars, some of those dirt roads on the news will be torn up in no time), which will ultimately reframe their lives much as the car did ours: fast food, more tourism, shopping malls as a response to competing with city/town shopping prices and experiences, which mean larger and longer suburbs, more and more land and resources going into expanding life where the car can now better reach, which means even less natural habitat and more zoos and other such attractions where wild animals have become a novel idea, hmmm, other species really exist? wow.

not to mention the INCREDIBLE waste of and consumption of resources to drive and maintain roads and cars, which ultimately pollute and destroy the land, the water, and the air, not to mention the pollution and/or mutation of the internal landscape: brain, heart and beyond.

but all this said, i understand the want, the need, as well as the need to want.

yet America is a tricky fucking place to be examining this from. even with the complete honesty of our own luxury and desires, there's still really little room to judge. especially when we REALIZE that fragile ecosystems like the Florida Everglades are being deforested at a rate of 450 acres a day! no lie, look it up if you don't believe.

2 thirds of the entire land mass of Los Angeles is devoted to the automobile in one way or another. that's remarkable! and it's said that at rush hour in LA, the pace can crawl to the exact speed as the horse drawn carriages that once settled the city many years ago. and trade winds have blown so much car exhaust and industrial smog into Mexico from these large California cities that in some cases the drinking water from those clouds of smog dropping their rain in Mexico has created the highest levels of lead in the world. (info care of Greenpeace, much of which was pulled from U.S. government studies)

and of course these Florida and California (home of Disney & Disney) examples are a mere taste, as we all already know.

i'd like to say it will be interesting to see where all this capitalism takes them over there in Iraq, but is it interesting? is that really what i mean? interesting? i'll certainly tune into the news to see what i can see.

i've watched my tax dollars with the tax dollars of my fellow tax paying Americans bomb the shit out of them. Now what?

will the "progression" be televised?

that same fast lane "progression" which exterminated MILLIONS of Native Americans, MILLIONS of buffalo and Passenger Pigeons and many other species. capitalism --so far-- doesn't seem capable of allowing ANY alterations to its pattern. imagine our world exactly as it is, and Real space having been saved for the Kiowa, Cheyenne and Lakota tribes to still actually live as they had at one time. can you see it? help me if you can see it, because i sure as hell can't.

but all the differences of landscapes aside (after all, Iraq has had incredible libraries and metropolitan settings longer than white America has existed), will the "progressions" of postwar Iraq be televised? we're NOT seeing the MANY American corporations and factories that set up shop in postwar Bosnia. but it has been mentioned they're there, Clinton himself had said so.

will we be too busy bombing and invading another country to maintain focus on Iraq and its many changes to come in this new corporate-colonial American territory?


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