Western man, according to some accounts, was born out of a traffic altercation. It was the same kind of thing you can see any day at the intersection of Wiltshire and Lincoln. Here comes the geezer with the bigass Lincoln, and here comes the young hotshot with the convertible Lexus. The argument about who yields the right of way proceeds to murder, of course, and then a future that includes incest and the fall of a principality for the young hotshot. It is no surprise, to the Gnostic historian (who takes coincidences seriously) that psychoanalysis and the automobile arose at the same time. And thus it is that Western man with the parricide watermark floating in his unconscious takes to the road. Look for details in Ballard’s Crash.
Myself, I’ve never been much for Western man – I keep saying to Western man, don’t you come around. But imagos to us humans are like mousetraps to the meezes: we are so entranced by the bait that we don’t recognize that we’ve crossed into the danger zone until it is too late. I tried to avoid getting a licence when I came of age, at sixteen, in Georgia because did I want this shit? But peer and parental pressure intervened, and thus, from the Marxo-Freudian viewpoint, the collective reproduced its neurosis in my soul. However, in the course car driver class, there was something that disturbed me, and that I’ve come to dislike more and more: the emphasis on “defensive driving”.
This phrase, as we can immediately see if we are wearing the right glasses, is definitely connected to the change of names that signaled the Cold War from War Department to Defense Department. At that moment, anything was possible. Similarly, driving prudently is one thing, but regarding all fellow drivers as enemies is something else. We must free ourselves from the delusion that we killed pa and slept with ma – that it is Mann gegen Mann und Gott gegen Alles out there on the highway. No, in actual fact, drivers are brothers and sisters. They are a community. We must help one another.
It is rather a paradox that in the age of Identity, the car driver still lacks one. Still lacks, that is, the imaginative community that is, according to Benedict Anderson, the framework for the romantic state – a collective of narratives and symbols that bind a disparate people together.
Yet because a social reality has not be socially constructed in the sense that I can say it is here or there doesn’t mean it doesn’t practically exist. Driving would be massively impossible if we didn’t depend each on the other in our hot little driver’s seats.Yes, of course each is dimly aware that the highways began as military projects and are imbued with a military rationality. But we are more than onward merging soldiers. We do sense a fleeting relationship to one another, although it is rare to express it. Drivers are very quick to label one another cretin, fucking idiot, etc. But where is the gasp of admiration when a particularly elegant solution is enacted to a particularly sticky driving problem? Driving is a feat, performed in a metal cave at speeds 20 to 30 times one’s normal walker and jogger speeds. We are ballerinas, even though it is as though we have safes and iron balls attached to our ankles. And we mostly do it well – the parking, the turning, the stopping and starting, the staring ahead through the windshield and the use of a mirror system (upon which our lives depend) that would have fascinated the natural philosophers of the Isle of Laputa.
I wrote the above while sitting waiting for two hours in the DMV in Santa Monica. Then I paid my dues, got a photo made of myself that makes me look like I’m on serious crack, and passed the test with its sometimes irrelevant questions – who cares what percentage of alcohol in your blood makes you legally intoxicated? I’ve never met the drinker yet who took blood samples between cocktails. The DMV is a bordel, an immense waste, and I have a distinct feeling that never in its history has someone sat in one of its plastic scoop seats and had the best day of his or her life. But at least we are in this together, eh?