Sunday, May 20, 2007

In Which Our Boy Returns to Earth and Finds it Populated With Zombies

I'm helpless
I'm flawless
I'm a machine
Give me
I need my toys
--Faith No More, "Zombie Eaters"

This past week in Central Standard was Walk, Bike , and Wheel Week, in which, all citizens of our happy burg were encouraged to use human-propelled modes of transportation in order to move themselves from one point in space to another. It is a celebration with two objectives. The first being to promote healthier lifestyles. After all, it's hard not to be more healthy when you have to depend on your legs and your heart to get you to work to make some money. The second objective is to promote planet-friendlier habits among the citizenry. Fewer cars means fewer emissions. Fewer emissions means healthier air. And so on.

I did participate, and I plan to keep walking and riding for the remainder of the school year (and beyond). Of course, this is a habit I have been trying to instill in myself, off and on, for the last several years, but I hope to make it stick this time. And, with a biking trail conveniently located near my new house and school in Lincoln (which are a mere 4.5 miles apart), I hope to bike daily to and from my new digs in the land of cornhuskers.

I bring this up, because it got me to thinking (again), about the things that cause us, as a nation and a species, to be in the state that we are in. Some of my ideas, which I can only assume are applicable only to these United States, since I have little real knowledge of the economic or sociological constructs of foreign nations, are as follows.

Wal-Mart: Kudos to the Evil Empire for their attempts to green their practices, what with the use of flourescent lightbulbs and such, but, ultimately, they, and the long ago advent of the mall and supermarket (natural progressions of an automoblile-loving society), have made it nearly impossible to even go buy a quart of milk without taking a drive. Consolidating all these sale items (food, clothes, haircuts, etc.) into one place is a boon for the pocketbook, since it makes the items cheaper for the consumer, but, by eliminating the small, neighborhood stores that once handled all of these specialties (the grocery, the barbers, the haberdashery, the record store, etc.), they ensured that we must burn some carbon-based fuel in order to obtain them (and God forbid that we actually ride the bus, or something--not that that eliminates the burning of the fuels, but it lightens the load when twenty-five people get one place on the same molecules, rather than all of them burning their own).

Suburbs: Of course, it has been oft-argued that the suburbs suck the life out of everyone who sets foot in them (see Dawn of the Dead). It has been proposed that they may be responsible for the corruption of the modern youth (see Suburbia). But one thing they certainly did was take us farther away from our places of life and livelihood (unless your idea of life and livelihood is Applebee's (see above)). By the way, in the previous link, note the comment at the end of the linked article, at least : "Applebee's becomes a cultural piece of the community." What? Really? Are we doomed, if Applebee's is a cultural piece of anything? Even Hays, Kansas? Anyway, my point is, when we live away from where we go, we have to go farther--obvious, I know, but, an important part of the argument here; and, as I always remind my kiddos, one should never overlook the obvious.

Audacity/Ignorance/False Pride/Laziness: Insert any of a number of first-hand examples that you, reader, may have of an ugly American, ending in empty-headed statements such as, "We fought for the right to drive wherever we want." Or something equally pig-headed.

Of course, I am proposing, in my last vestiges of Liberalism (which I am tenaciously trying to hold onto as I age--like Churchill may or may not have said, "Anyone under thirty who is not a liberal has no heart. Anyone over thirty who is, has no brain.") that we somehow try to re-engineer the blueprints of our cities, turning them into collective enclaves of community, rather than these concentric rings of commerce with burned-out centers. Of course, in this example, I am thinking of my old hometown, Baltimore, but the metaphor, with some adjustment probably fits anywhere (even Hays, Kansas). Here in Central Standard, while the downtown is relatively active, the outskirts of town are, each day, becoming a wall of box stores and commercial pollution: Wal-Marts, Kohls, Applebees, etc., squeezing the lifeblood out of the character of this little town.

At the current rate, in the current state, in the end, I can only forsee a scenario very similar to the forementioned Dawn of the Dead, in which we fine citizens wander slew-footed and slack-jawed, looking for anyone who is still alive, so we can eat her brains, and make her one of us.


comoprozac said...

What about Hummers? The population increase of Hummers and vehicles of the same ilk has to be a factor. 13 MPG cars and trucks can't be helping the situation.

ATR said...

Yes, Hummers, too. That could fit under the umbrella of ignorance, maybe?

Anonymous said...

I agree and add complacency, capitalism gone mad, and consumerism to the mix. It's all greed, how can I turn as high a profit as fast as possible, short-sightedness that is driving our culture to destroy the environment as well as what humanity there is in our culture. Don't even get me started on healthcare or international policy with China, for instance.

This weekend we were up in Philly and the surrounding area, and I was struck by issues of class, corruption (Philly isn't even subtle about it), etc. and the contrasts with DC (gross affluence/entitlement juxtaposed with extreme poverty if you happen into those relatively segregated areas, which are also gentrifying in some places).

I'll stop there for now. Good post!


comoprozac said...

Actually, I really just wanted to pick on Hummers.