Saturday, February 12, 2005

Remember a couple of days ago I promised y'all Mr. James Howard Kunstler's reaction to that sad little story about the kids getting run over while one of the neighbors was teaching his son to drive? Here it is.

What on earth does one make of a story like this? I conclude that the local culture, in effect, accepts the death of little children like Michael Brown as a necessary cost of doing business. Atlanta's economy is based on suburban development for its own sake. That is, suburban development IS the economy. This particular pattern of development requires the continual use of personal transport machines, cars, which tend to be dangerous and require some skill to operate. Teaching these skills is the responsibility of the family. It can be hazardous to bystanders. Sometimes members of other families are present in the area of instruction. Sometimes hazards cannot ba avoided and injuries or death result. Of course, everybody regrets the loss, but all--including the parents--are eager to forgive and get over the unhappy incident and get on with the next order of business: Real estate must be sold, development deals must be signed, the roads have to be widened to accomodate all the extra cars from the new subdivisions and their accessory strip malls. Children will grow up there, and sooner or later virtually all of them who are mentally and physically able must be taught to drive cars so that they can go out and play adult roles in the Sunbelt economy.

What a pile of shit.

1. While people are to some degree motivated by economics, everybody who isn't an utter cynic will agree that economics is not people's ONLY motivation, and that there may be other factors like, I don't know, love, loyalty, kindness, generosity, and such silly Sunbelt Christian things. The Brown family and those who offered to help them seem to be a fine example of these non-economic impulses.

2. Atlanta's economy is quite obviously based on a whole lot of things besides suburban development. Just to name a few: Coca-Cola, CNN, dozens of other corporate headquarters, the airport, the medical centers, Emory, Morehouse, and Georgia Tech (all fine universities), the railroad connections, federal and state employment, banking, insurance, state legislature pork, strip bars, porno vid rentals, escort I need to go on?

3. People have always had accidents with dangerous things. Before cars it was railroads and ships, not to mention horses. An awful lot of people got killed in carriage wrecks or when being thrown. Farm machinery, which kids in the old days had to learn how to work by the time they were twelve, is dangerous now and was a lot more dangerous then. Factory work, which kids in the old days were often doing by the time they were twelve, could be extremely dangerous. Let's not even get into coal mining. Our kids are tremendously better protected today than even fifty years ago.

4. Moron, in the US we have something called "drivers' education", which dopes like a certain relative of mine teach in the public high schools. It's taught in the public schools because it's considered a useful and necessary skill. I personally remember, at age fifteen, drivers ed class. When we passed the course we got provisional licenses, which required us to drive only with another adult in the front seat until we turned sixteen and took the real state drivers' license exam. (This was Texas in 1982.) Probably the guy who did more than anyone else to teach me to drive was our neighbor across the alley, Mr. Grimley.

5. People want to forgive other people because, I don't know, maybe because they believe that forgiveness is the ethical way to behave? And people want to, in the jargon, reach "closure" when a tragedy like this one happens. It is utterly cynical to insinuate that Mr. Brown feels forgiving to his neighbor because he knows that real estate must be sold.

6. Just one little comment. Haussmann (that's the correct spelling of the guy's surname, which I think I managed to spell three different ways in the last post. Two S's, two N's) quite clearly had, among the objects of his plan to beautify and organize and modernize Paris, a) increasing the value of real estate b) making money for Haussmann's own Robert Moses-esque operation c) improving traffic circulation. I don't see much difference between that and "selling real estate, making development deals, and widening the roads". Yet Kunstler praises Haussmann and his patron, Napoleon III. OK, that's fair, those two really did a lot to make Paris the beautiful city we know, but neither of them was at all democratic nor particularly honest, something I'll bet a lot of these Georgia real-estate developers actually are. Oh, yeah, Nap III wound up losing his throne due to the idiot war he started with the Prussians, thereby getting God only knows how many of his countrymen killed, firing up a real revolution that had to be bloodily suppressed, and losing two of his country's richest provinces to the Germans. Some hero. Bet you can't name a cracker fundamentalist with that kind of record for incompetence, stupidity, arrogance, and being the direct cause of thousands of deaths. OK, Jimmy Carter, but that's just one.

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