Monthly Archives: November 2010

Flesh Metal & Glass

cover scan via: extrabox

I’ve collected different things at different times. I never have really collected anything sensible, or even collected in a sensible way. For example, if I were to collect something pedestrian like Disney memorabilia I’m sure I would make no attempt to collect the valuable. Rare, perhaps, but not valuable. I would look for the missteps, the places Disney went off track and veered into something subversive, or interesting, or appropriated by others. This Australian VD prevention poster that features Donald Duck is a good example of memorabilia in this category that might interest me.

All this is to say that for awhile in college, around the time when I read J.G. Ballard’s auto erotic novel Crash, I began to collect books, textbooks, and magazines that dealt with the issue of car crashes, particularly in American society. The above photo is an example. I was fascinated by the tragic stories and violent images that these publications were filled with.

Look closer at the image above. The rolled car in the background. The man hugging an obviously injured and likely killed woman. He looks physically unscathed and yet wrecked.

The transparent blood red title typography completes this terrible and yet poetically tragic image, an image that does feel uniquely American in the sense that car culture has always been such an integral part of our society.

In this image and many more I saw the violent results of a technology that has reliably killed 40,000 – 50,000 Americans every year for the past fifty years.

Even now, even today there are something in the order of six million car accidents a year in the United States, with about two million people a year receiving injuries.

By comparison, the Iraq war has killed around 4,400 in the 6+ years since it started, a loss that has felt unbearable to many Americans, myself included. Yet in that same time frame, around 240,000 Americans lost their lives in car crashes, and perhaps as many 12 million were injured. Why don’t we feel that psychic pain?

It still staggers my mind that this kind of carnage is inflicted daily, monthly, and annually on Americans with little hue and cry. It’s accepted. It’s built into our system. It’s not called “terrorism”. We don’t need to take off our shoes to drive, or get full body scans. It’s just the cost of doing business in our modern world.

It’s still not built into my system. I’ve never owned a car. I advocate for cities, for public transportation systems, and for ways of living that are less reliant on cars. And I’m happy that safety improvements to cars are coming online that are finally beginning to make a dent in these terrifying statistics.

I don’t collect this material anymore – I only did for a few years, and it got too grim. If you walk dark paths, you have to know when to turn around. I still have a lot of it around though, and I’ll post more from time to time. There is still value to some of the material. But on the whole? This is one collection I’d be just as happy without.

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