Sunday, June 8, 2008

Driving is Political

I try not to watch the national news because it gets my blood boiling like nothing else. Tonight ABC World News covered soaring gas prices ($4.50 in Bucktown). They speculated that prices are raising because of increased demand in China. One reporter exclaimed "More people are driving in China everyday!" Shocking, other people in the world want to live like Americans. How dare they.

I do not own a car. I have not for over five years. Now granted I have lived in fairly large metropolitan areas, but I have not even missed it. I think that Americans rely much too heavily upon personal vehicles and that this privilege has been ideologically constructed as a necessity to increase consumption and make oil companies, and the governments in bed with them, rich. Face it, someone is getting rich off of this, that is how capitalism/neoliberalism work. The news program also alluded to the possibility of recession from these rising costs. It seems to me that if people change their lifestyles these costs wouldn't be so painful.

Frankly, I hope gas prices do keep going up. And I am not saying that because I want anyone to suffer but because I think that only under the most dire circumstances will we as Americans come up with alternatives. Oil is not a sustainable resource, this is not debatable. One day it will be gone and in the meantime it is polluting our environments and making city air almost un-breathable.

I have found biking to be a wonderful alternative. I love the wind blowing through my hair and the breeze on my face. I love cruising past cars stuck in Chicago traffic and getting everywhere faster than I do on public transit or when friends offer rides in their cars. My bike cost $40 at Working Bikes Co-operative and requires minimal maintenance. I have heard every argument in the book for car usage instead of bikes and my best argument is that I have managed for five years without a car with no trouble.

Because I love this blog and because it offers many practical tips for people who wish to reduce dependence upon their cars, I think you all should check out Chicago Bike Blog. A lot of her tips apply to folks in any city. Most importantly, check out 50 Ways to Leave Your Car. Don't let the mega-hetero-patriarchal-white-supremacist-imperialist-corporateocracy drain all of your savings and your health! Ditch your cars because it is a major political statement!


kat said...

I think you're right about privilege and necessity getting conflated. With the possibility that in some parts of the country, driving really might be necessary. If you live in the middle of sweet-fuck-all-nowhere, and you need to get into a city, chances are there are buses or trains or something. If you live in sweet-fuck-all-nowhere and need to get to sweet-fuck-all-nowhere-and-a-half...well, you're probably going to need to get in the car.

It most definitely is about someone getting rich. Let's look at the car companies who claim that they can't do anything about fuel efficiency. How come many of those same companies make models for the European market that get almost twice the miles/gallon that ours do? You occasionally see big SUV's (usually of the luxury variety) in England/Europe, but they're so rare. Partially because of space, but also because gas is about $9 a gallon!

So, yeah, bring it on with higher gas prices. We need something to convince America to look for other modes of transport!

Cortney said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cortney said...

Exactly! And people in the middle of nowhere (like I used to be and my family still is) are so fucking complacent about it. They don't start getting upset until it pinches their wallets. If all of those complacent people finally started getting mad, we might see more fuel efficiency and perhaps better alternatives because the public (and therefore, the market) will demand it. We just haven't gotten there yet. I wish I had a digital camera to take pics of the gas station near my house. It is seriously over $4.50 a gallon!! How much more will it take til we change?

Nina said...

Hey Cortney, it's been a long time! I agree with much of what you are saying. When I was in Milwaukee, I did not have a car for two years. When I did, I still used public transportation most of the time. However, I think your point of view is out of a certain privilege and middle class culture.

Most countries, people and groups will be invest or be environmentally friendly when there are resources available. Thus constructing "green" as the white western middle class culture.

I work in New Orleans as a Case Manager at Nami. For most my clients having a bike, money for the bus or access to a car is unheard of. Not to mention there is limited transportation due to Katrina. So for me to drive them to get medical treatment or resources is a big "temporary" help to them. I know that it does not solve the real issue and cause of lack transportation (income).

Next year, I am saying good bye to my car when my husband and I go to England. I will be so happy and delighted! At the same time, another woe gas is just a paradigm of capitalism. But before it was the railroads, now gas--what's next? The problem is capitalism.

kat said...

prepare to wince at the prices of train and underground tickets in the UK....The system gets you anywhere you could want to go, and it does that efficiently, and it charges you lots!

Lucé said...

I agree with the basic principal of your argument. Now that I live in DC I revel in being able to use the Metro to get everywhere.

However, I feel your post graciously overlooks the many jobs you do need a vehicle for. I can tell you I wouldn't have been hired in my past two jobs if I had not had a car.

#1 Donations Manager for a domestic violence shelter - I needed to go to donors houses or places of work to pick up furniture and other various items that they were donating to our shelter.

#2 Field Organizer for presidential campaign - I needed my car to not only drive around Iowa for voter contact, but each time another primary ended I had to jump into my trusty car to head to another state on only a moments notice. Political staffers need their cars to be successful. I lived in my car for 6 months while I had this job, it was all I had, and I'm glad I had it.

I believe in more public transit, and bike riding where you can (as I do both), but there are exceptions. It's great that you have a job that allows you such freedoms, but many do not. It's important to recognize such limitations and to move forward from there.

Cortney said...

I actually do not have such a fabulous job. I took a crappy job in my neighborhood precisely because I do not have a car and knew I wouldn't be able to take any jobs that required it.
There were plenty of much better jobs that I would have loved that I didn't even bother applying for because they were either out of public transit/biking range or because they did require the use of a car. Car ownership is a privilege that frankly, I cannot afford.

Judith said...


My name is Judith, and I'm the Medicaid Organizer at the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City, IA. I'm currently working on a project that could potentially increase financial access to abortion for women in Iowa, and I'm looking for help from as many pro-choice and women's rights bloggers as I can find to help spread the word about our current call for help. I found a link to your blog on Feministing, and was hoping you might be interested. We're trying to find women who have had financial difficulties accessing abortion in Iowa and who are able to share their stories with us. I've put together a message on our website (URL below) and I would be delighted if you would be willing to link to it. If not, it would be great if you could pass it on to anyone else you know who might be interested, or to suggest anyone else I might contact. Thanks for your time!


kat said...

In San Francisco last week I saw a station with premium gas for $4.95. It was a brand name place, right by the freeway, so they're capitalizing on the convenient location (what I mean is that the price isn't very representative of SF gas prices)

Bring it on!

Cortney said...

Yikes. I thought Chicago was bad! It might not be representative of where we are at right now, but it is only a matter of time.

Anonymous said...

What does driving have to do with feminism?

Cortney said...

Eco-feminism is a very popular and timely topic right now. Many feminists argue that the ways in which the earth is sectioned off and used are similar to the ways in which women have been historically treated. Especially since women have long been considered more in tune with nature and emotion as opposed to logic and transcendence. Arguably, from the time that private property was conceptualized women have been considered to be the property of their husbands so that lineage could be established. Further, many feminist believe the ways in which animals are treated are similar to the ways in which women's bodies are commodified and treated as meat to be consumed.

All of this relates to the way that we think of driving as necessary despite all of the evidence otherwise AND the overwhelming evidence that it is destroying our planet.

Beyond all of that, this is my blog and occasionally I have things to say that are not overtly feminist. I love biking!