I am delighted with your reply (and I am posting it to the group because I
value running these reflections in front of that audience). I am also moved
that you have shared with me the fact that you get downhearted about the way
the world is. You write with such optimism and curbed passion that I could
be forgiven for forgetting that you must share the emotions - positive and
negative - that make your book so exciting and consoling to many of us.
Thanks for the detailed stuff. It's vital to this dialogue and the learning
that attends it. I'm taking a break from delivering election leaflets hour
upon hour for the last few days and getting more insight into the cancerous
harm the car along with a few other things - like mismanaged and corruptly
allocated public regeneration money - has done to the fabric of my
"I find it so strange that so many people regard the isolation of
> the car as some kind of ideal. It really speaks to the tremendous
> class-sensitivity of Americans (and nearly everybody else)."
It's the same here tho' isn't it. I wrote a paper in 1995 published in
"Human Relations" (my most prestigious journal publication to date) called
"The Internal Polity". I don't want to burden you with more reading
especially thinking remote from urban design but I wrote it (along with a
later chapter on "Governmentality" in a collection of papers on "The
Governance of Cyberspace"). My theme was that there's been an explosion of
awareness of the infinite dimensions of inner space - the fabric of
self-consciousness. I called it "The Internal Polity". These inner spaces
were explored and mapped as thoroughly as Marx and others mapped society
during the 19/20th centuries.
From new age self-improvement books at the airport to lengthy psychoanalysis
and drug assisted escape from misery, interior space has - for the western
mind and populations under western influence - become a territory of deep
and consuming fascination and indulgence (unlike the interior journeys
conducted within religious discipline).
The car is par excellence a device that allows this exploration and
colonisation of the psyche to continue apace. It's one if the best places in
which to evade the hazardous distractions of the external world while
offering an all round view of it that avoids the mental discipline of
monkish isolation. Gorz is good but he doesn't get the whole of our
fascination with being away from our fellow humans.
My daughter Amy sat in "silence" with me on a car journey from the
Gloucestershire countryside yesterday playing her favourite music to herself
through earphones. She is very bright if her test results are anything to go
by. I asked her, when an opportunity arose, why she seemed to need to
listen to music like this so often and especially now when we might be
chatting. She said talking to a parent was impossible at this stage in her
life. Surely I understood that.
Her CD player helped her concentrate on a homework assignment she was
anxious about. That's what she said. We used to have wonderful conversations
as we walked or cycled together but that is over for the time being. Is
there some new developmental transition that goes beyond the 1950s invention
of adolescence that hasn't been properly named that requires (as with so
called primitive tribes) a self-guided grand tour of interior space?
My worry and yours (and indeed of thousands of parents) is that too many
people get to like their interior space so much they invest in technologies
and adopt attitudes to ensure they don't come out the other side. Is the car
one of these. Is this shiny beauty presented by some proud parents on
graduation day a collusion in their dearest one's temptation to stay
separated from the exterior world.
PhD students among the children of my friends reassure me of the one's who
get out and away. As I write to you my heart swells a little at hearing Amy
playing Fur Elise on our piano downstairs! For intervals she can put the
late Kurt Cobain- "I hate life and I want to die" - aside.
----- Original Message -----
From: J.H. Crawford <postmaster@...>
Sent: Sunday, June 03, 2001 11:48 AM
Subject: Re: [carfree_cities] Re: urbancyclist-uk: Love of the car
> Hi Simon,
> I think you meant to send this off-list. I've made that mistake
> myself--it's very easy to do.