A Strange Love Affair
(Originally submitted to the underground newspaper "The Diamondot")
Americans have a love affair with automobiles. They have ever since the 1950s. In fact, that was when this idea was first coined. For most people, this love affair is taken for granted. Cars symbolise freedom. After World War Two, when the men had just come back from Europe, cars were the ticket to a new life. Mobility enabled the middle class to move into suburbs, where they could form their own neighborhoods, and come and go as they wished. With a car, also, people could go on vacation. They felt much less dependent. They seemed to be in total control of their destiny, by having control over the means of reaching their destination.
Ironically, like most things Americans slap the title "liberty" on, cars result in just the opposite of freedom. Once a person has a car, one's whole life becomes dependent on this mechanical object. Money is guzzled by the gas tank. Cars also have tires, and need their brakes checked, and need to be washed now and then. The maintenance of a car is as binding as iron shackles. But add to that, the fact that cars must travel on roads. When driving a car, a person must relinquish control over one's own destiny, and follow the roads that others have built. No liberty results from owning a car.
Conversely, to be free from cars is true liberty. One who is self sufficient, and need only depend on a pair of legs, can live a life free of the hassels and shackles of cars. In China, people don't have cars. They ride bicycles. China is not usually thought of as a free country. America is the "land of liberty" but China is an "oppressive Cummunist state". Yet in China, transportation was never a problem for anyone. No one had to waste any money on it. The socialist infrastructure provided public transit systems. And people could hop on their bikes whenever they wanted, and go wherever they wished. Bikes don't cost much, either, and they don't need much maintenance. Here in America, I bought a bike for $100. Four years later, it works just as well, and I haven't paid another cent on its upkeep. There's a lot to be learned from the countries America looks down on.
Even without a bicycle, people can be free. Humans were born with two legs. If those legs are used often enough to keep them in good shape, they're really quite miraculous. If Americans fell in love with their feet (like I've done) instead of their automobiles, people would be much healthier, and much happier. Driving everywhere in a rush to reach a destination prevents people from being able to appreciate the beauty of life. Walking gives people a chance to calm down, and just appreciate their own breathing.
Americans have been seduced by a pretty, glitzy face. A far more worthy lover, who has much more to offer, waits silently to be noticed. But Americans cling blindly to their automobiles, trapped in this strange, unhealthy love affair.