A Sunday drive with the whole family packed together in the old station wagon staring out the back window at the yachts plying the inter-coastal waterway and pointing out to each other the palatial homes that sat on the beach shore as we drove north on AIA; stopping at McDonald’s for hamburgers and fries on the drive home and sitting outside on the tiled cement tables enjoying food as different from mom’s tallateli, melongene, or pasta e fagioli as the places we just drove through were from our own neighborhood, and thinking how it would feel to be sailing under a raised bridge out to an open sea as the cars waited for us to pass.
The leisurely Sunday drive seems like an historical moment gone by. With the price of fuel, congested traffic, and the desire to spend as little time in a car as possible there is little appetite for a leisurely drive. And even in those few moments when the family is all together driving to some destination or vacation, the kids are plugged into an exterior “iWorld” far from the interior private world of family (which may be a good thing if the family is dysfunctional - but that’s another story).
From the perspective of global warming and resource depletion and all the other untoward effects of oil the death of the leisurely Sunday drive may be a good thing, but from a social perspective I can’t help but think something has been lost.
To those familiar with the works of Richard Wolff and his economic analysis of the shift in prosperity from those at the bottom to those on the top beginning in the early 70’s and Chris Hedges on the weakening of democratic institutions, it’s old hat that there has been a deterioration in the quality of life for which the political and power elites have yet to be held to account. With Vietnam, urban blight, crime, and disco, the 70’s weren’t exactly idyllic and I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to them. But it’s more than just nostalgia that makes me think that homo economicus is bringing homo sapien to his knees, that brute force will decide the outcome and that it is futile to raise a voice in protest to those who have no ears to hear.
Photo by Alex V under Creative Commons license