We live in the best of all possible worlds. Indeed, we export our way of life zealously to those who haven't yet tasted its rewards, especially to residents of China, India and Brazil, the big markets as we now know them. When systemic problems arise at home, our leaders use the tested axioms of free-market prosperity to solve them: privatize, or use government funds to pay corporate campaign contributors to help solve the crisis. In California, as everyone knows, we have energy and transportation crises. So, our corporate and government masterminds will finance more freeway building and increase the number of cars on the road. Each morning, I hear the sounds of bulldozers and heavy road building equipment; a freeway under construction just 200 yards from my house. What a divine blend those large internal combustion engines make each morning with birds chirping and leaf blowers chattering. The clouds of dust that settle over the grass and flowers, that seep into nostrils and eyes well, a small price to pay for progress.
The new freeway after all will facilitate automobile commuters' journeys in their seventy miles trek from San Bernadino to downtown Los Angeles. Tens of thousands of three and four bedroom units -- as houses are now called -- are currently under construction in suburban communities east of LA. What's a few hundred thousand more people in an area that already contains some 12 million! The region has a dubious supply of water, mostly stolen, or borrowed, from other regions and, of course, suffers from rolling blackouts. But development, as such construction is euphemistically know, pushes ever on. The great philosopher, Rush Limbaugh, addresses my concerns about noise and smog, which accompany a transportation system based on the divinely mandated “one passenger per car” formula. Limbaugh, like the other conservative commentators that nearly monopolize AM talk radio, doesn't believe the reports about global warming, but he does believe that God intended us to own as many SUVs as our hearts desire. To Limbaugh, public transportation smacks of socialism. Besides, Southern Californians have learned to love their cars and tolerate torturous conditions daily to maintain the car as their sole means of transportation -- if not their closest friend. Many in the southland have even given pet names to their cars and SUVs.
A recently published study in the Los Angeles Times shows that LA commuters averaged 56 hours last year sitting immobile -- not even inching along -- on our world famous freeways. Residents of other car-loving cities spent a few hours less in these situations. This is institutionalized loneliness. Imagine spending the equivalent of two entire days plus one full working shift sitting on a freeway, exhaust fumes pouring out of thousands of vehicles and seeping into you car! But listening to books on tape may help. The study didn't say whether tuning in to Limbaugh generates road rage as he berates the long-gone Clintons and argues loudly and belligerently in favor of the rich pay8ing ever less in taxes.
Lkimbaugh and the wise men who offer freeways and cars to meet transportation needs, offer solutions to the energy crisis as well. As the president, a well-known free-trader, announced: we must drill for oil off shore and in the virgin wilderness. If God hadn't us to drill in those remote places, why would he have put the oil there in the first place, intimates Limbaugh. Since we export and import almost everything else, why not import more oil. Let's not even talk about semi-socialist endeavors like wind and solar power or other non fossil fuel energy sources.
So, W plans to solve the energy crisis in a multifold manner, mainly by lowering taxes for the rich the truly clever will figure this out -- and drilling in virgin areas. And, presumably, he will help diffuse the transportation crisis by encouraging Congress to spend ever more money building freeways to accommodate more cars. Air pollution and smog that ensue from such solutions -- well, use Visine to deal with the effects of smog. It does actually give slight temporary help for the inflammation caused by the dust in my eyes. I'm sure there's some product to buy for my nose as well, and I can spray the tops of the flowes and remove the daily film from their petals as well.
Since our very system depends upon perpetual growth driven by the government's incentives to the private sector - we call it development our leaders don't dare mention building a public rail system or God forbid limiting growth. Our system assumes that each individual should have the ability to buy as many cars, houses and boats as he or she pleases, regardless of race, color or creed. Eventually, the Chinese, Indians and Brazilians will also learn these lessons, as they adopt our way of life. Then, they too can live in the best of all possible worlds. Saul Landau is the Director of Digital Media and International Outreach Programs for the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences