I already have one post regarding theater of the absurd, but that was more a stunt with diverse unrelated elements. This one from the LA Times features California GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari taking a mallet to a toy train to promote his idiotic position against building high-speed rail linking Los Angeles and San Francisco. (Maybe California is too bankrupt and drought-stricken — perhaps soon to experience a major diaspora — to consider infrastructure upgrades, but that’s not what’s under discussion.) Kashkari also gave away $25 gas cards to the first 100 attendees of his campaign event to sweeten the deal. In the news story, comparison is made to a similar bit of political theater by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who dropped a wrecking ball onto an Oldsmobile to signal his dissent regarding onerous annual automobile registration fees.
Now then, I can’t say for certain what’s going on inside the heads of numbskull candidates whose best ideas amount to busting shit up to make their points, but forcing Californians to climb into their cars by thwarting mass transit options is more than a little questionable when the roadways and air are already choked with traffic and smog:
I see a similar layer of smog over Chicago nearly every morning, though it’s usually visible as a layer of brown gunk only when the sun has not yet risen too far over Lake Michigan. Later in the day, it’s gray haze. Chicago traffic congestion is also a serious problem despite numerous mass transit options, which begs all sorts of other questions.
No doubt it sounds conspiratorial to suggest that automobile manufacturers and Big Oil marched everyone unwittingly into their cars and bought or installed their share of government lackeys to aid and abet. But there was and still is lots of lucre to be made by doing so. And how else can any thinking person possibly rationalize the continuing destruction of the natural world that comes with paving over the landscape and extracting the energy needed to keep happy motoring alive? This doesn’t even account for the horrific number of traffic deaths each year. True, trends have gone consistently down over time when averaged over millions of vehicle miles traveled, but maybe that’s partially accounted for by congestion. The sheer number of deaths is still startling.
Similar questions can be raised regarding economists and political hacks who fail utterly to see any limits to growth — indeed, cannot believe that finitude is anywhere or anytime nearby — despite severely diminished returns on continued extraction of resources, worsening overpopulation, and toxification of water, soil, and air. To be alive in the 21st century means knowing (if one has the courage to face the truth) that we’re slowly killing ourselves through a variety of behaviors that are now so deeply woven into industrial civilization as to be inescapable. So we all continue to drive, use electricity (generated by burning coal or by nuclear fusion), and have babies because, frankly, we don’t know how to do anything else. And no one with the power to “move the needle” is saying much about what should have us all shocked and awed, namely, the fully anticipatable wreckage of the modern world coming soon to neighborhoods near yours and mine and everyone’s. Instead, we get buffoonery such as continuous wars, campaign theater of the absurd, and political promises of a brighter future. Our disconnect from what reality will deliver could not be more complete.