From ‘Motomami’ to ‘Drive My Car’ to ‘Eco-Anxiety’: How Motor Fascination Came to Dominate Culture | cultural | icon

Rosalía fills a gas tank in the foreground of her recent video Bag: the moms, indeed, they travel on motorbikes; Aitana just came out In the car and ragpicker Pimp Flaco describes his bravado in water boys using a car example: “The fool with the Mini gets two cents, and I want a Lamborghini to go slow.” In the cinema, we saw the Saab of drive my car until you learn the shape of your spoiler by heart and, if you walk away, fast furious it remains one of the most profitable franchises of the 20th century. The trend is old: Ric Ocasek called his group The Cars, Bruce Springsteen’s anti-heroes drive all night long and many novels and poems have also been written featuring cars or motorcycles: in Mazda 6, Manuel Vilas recounts how the poet “came into his Mazda 6 and felt the manes / of the hundred and fifty horses at his command, / ready to throw themselves against the walls of the sky if he wanted to.

The road so far has been long but almost without curves. When in 1861 Baudelaire introduced words like tram Where car, many, especially in the salons of the aristocracy, protested: these recent inventions did not deserve to figure in any artistic work. However, the Frenchman persevered and devoted his work to collecting the experiences, still unpublished, of the large masses of inhabitants of the metropolises of the time (London and Paris). That of motorized transport was a new world which constantly produced novelties (technical, economic or social) and artists like Baudelaire himself or Monet knew how to capture them. They invented modernity and vehicles (which allowed citizens to feel this speed that permeates everything) would be their symbol: first trams and railways; later automobiles and airplanes.

A few decades later, the automobile was already one of the great myths of the 20th century. Acclaimed by the avant-gardes (“a car headlight projected on us transforms us into a film”, wrote Gómez de la Serna), it occupied such an important place in capitalist societies in the mid-1950s that the philosopher Roland Barthes compared to Gothic cathedrals: “magical objects whose image consumes the whole city”.

Back then, industry and governments acted as if the resources to make cars, the capacity of cities to accommodate them, or the oil that fueled their internal combustion engines were limitless (with some shocks like the 1973 crash that appears in Licorice Pizza) and the car was hardly discussed in its iconic status that stood alongside all other contemporary myths. on the album cover be here now (1997) by Oasis, a Rolls Royce from the 70s appears submerged in a swimming pool, an image which refers to this legend which says that this is how Keith Moon’s car ended up, and which sends a double message: we admires the Who drummer and, like those stars, we also have expensive toys.

Cover of ‘Be here now’, by Oasis, where you can see a Rolls Royce sunk in a swimming pool.

Automobile overcrowding began to cause more serious adverse effects than the traffic jams that in 1964 inspired Julio Cortázar for his story the southern highway. “We only associate pollution with respiratory health, but often we do not identify problems such as noise, which many studies associate with cognitive problems, depression and other illnesses”, explains Miguel Álvarez, engineer civilian and responsible for the Nación Rotonda project, which documents examples of bad urban planning. “The car, moreover, served to segregate the territory by class: now, different social classes no longer live in the same neighborhood and this segregation poses all kinds of problems.”

“The car is a private project that circulates on public roads in systems of competition and isolation”, adds Jorge Dioni, author of Spain of swimming pools, a recent essay on urban development or PAU (Urban Action Program) on the outskirts of major capitals, “dispersed cities” in which the private vehicle is essential. These communities are marked by concepts such as security, homogeneity, segregation, familiarity and the cochism. “Public transport forces us to adapt to certain rules, from the timetable to behavior, including hygiene or the sound that is emitted. The car allows us to detach ourselves from these common norms that would make us interact with different people”.

Now this logic has another layer of meaning. Society has understood that the resources needed to manufacture and operate automobiles are increasingly close to exhaustion (the current energy crisis proves this) and is beginning to realize that, as Álvarez points out, “there is no It is not possible that the world in general has the rate of motorization that we have in the most developed countries”. The emission of greenhouse gases is also testing the Earth’s ability to ensure our own survival. According to a report by The Lancet (carried out after surveying 10,000 people aged 16 to 25 in ten different countries), nearly 60% of young people say they are “very worried or extremely worried” about climate change, and this phenomenon causes anxiety and sadness in more than fifty %. Another European Parliament report blames private vehicles for 20% of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere from Europe.

We are thus coming to a particularly busy year. An alternator creaks as the key turns, a combustion engine begins to roar, and Joe Twilight’s latest record begins. “I understand that speed, the control of the machine which represents domination over nature, has positive connotations; after all, it’s a symbol of power,” says Azahara Palomeque, a writer and doctor of cultural studies who was recently embroiled in a controversy over one of her tweets on mom. “For me, it involves a negative moral sense but, as with everything, it requires a social pedagogy that takes these majority positions,” he explains.

Azahara wrote this to him momwith its glorification of fossil fuels, provokes it ecoanxiety and received thousands of angry responses. “What is curious”, he comments, “is that I received them both from the extreme right and from a growing left who saw my comment as a personal insult to Rosalía (this n was not), and as an attack on the lower classes ‘right to prosper.’ . Driving, after all, is associated with a sense of freedom. “The pleasure is no longer as intense as it was years ago, certainly not on the way to work, but even as an obligation it remains one of the least burdensome. And besides, it’s the only place where I listen to music,” admits Nere Basabe, writer and professor of current world history at the Autonomous University. For her, behind the wheel, she feels she can blend into the movement, the speed and the landscape.

And here the ambivalence of the cultural significance of the vehicle. “I like to compare the car to the gifts that the Greek gods gave you: they gave you something that was very good but also had a toxic part. I believe that the car is a wonderful invention, the problem is its excess, which causes the system itself to collapse with traffic jams and considerably worsens the externalities it generates,” explains Álvarez.

mom and to urban music, so charged with octane, they carry this ambivalence. It is possible that over time there will appear works that understand that the ecoanxiety it is not a word, as was the case in the 19th century when Baudelaire noticed that hardly anyone rode a horse. Meanwhile, in our world, you pull over, put on your seatbelt, turn on the radio, and hear, “We’re out of jail / in first gear / in parrot Deep Purple / all four wheels squeak.”

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