Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cars- Life is not a Pixar movie

Cars: Life is not a Pixar movie
When you factor in car debt, fuel, repairs and the occasional ticket-- how many months must you work each year just to support the "purchase" of the transport that you must have to get you from your home to the place where you offer your labor power for sale? Would you really need a car except to get to work, and if not, shouldn't the boss be paying for it? etc.
--letter from a comrade

Yearly take home about 18 200.00
Yearly gas & oil change 2360.00
=about 6.74 weeks of work are required to keep my car going for a year with gas and oil changes.
This morning before work I also paid over 800.00 for replacement of front struts and wheel alignment; struts had broken due to corrosive effects of weathering from Cleveland driving for the last 14 years.
Workers like myself can get away with not buying a home, but we cannot get away with not having a car. A bus ride to my job would take 90 minutes and require two transfers. The route would take even longer on Saturday due to austerity measures taken by the RTA.
Grocery stores are all at least a mile from where we live. Which means without a working car we would either fritter away grocery money at the local corner carry-out, or have to hire a cab for the grovery trip.
Add to that the psychologically devastating impact of feeling isolated and marooned, which is the result of not having a car in a car-centered economy like the United States. Those without cars internalize very quickly the objective fact of their second or third class citizenship.
Every week I see more cars broken down by the side of the highway as I drive to and from work. To me they all tell the same story: someone at home frantically trying to get the money together for a tow before the city impounds the car; frantic to get it fixed or at least running again before they lose their job or they get admonished by the school or the daycare for not having their kid arriving and departing on time. Some of these cars on the side of the highway have temporary tags instead of license plates: someone just bought the clunker in the hopes of keeping that job.
For workers cars are assurance of peonage, like student loans and mortgages and installment plans for a child's braces. Cars are wonderful pieces of engineering and technique, the fruit of collective social labor, and they are, in our consciousness, reduced to an alien force which by turns sustains and immiserates our working lives.
Should my boss pay for my car, or at least my transportation? Let's ask this in a slightly different way. Does my boss pay for my health insurance? Yes, he would say, I pay for about 80% of it. But does he? Where does he get the money for that 80% The money sewn into his mattress or hidden in the Cayman Islands is not his money; it is the unpaid labor he - given the relationship of class forces in the world today - was not compelled to pay his workers. The boss would never assent to pay for my transportation out of income on his profits; this is, after all, the land of the invisible hand of the free market.
When the working class fightback gets to the point where our class can force open the books and win boss funding for our cars, the dictatorship of the proletariat will be close enough to taste. Until then, we must demand transportation as a social right, irrespective of whether we work or not: transportation that is free, clean, safe, timely, with a union workforce, and which does not require a half hour walk from the bus stop to the front door.
Until that victory is won, we will be compelled to find our own solutions for car miseries, as we always have been.
My answer, in the short term? Like Basil Fawlty, I think recalcitrant cars sometimes need a damned good hiding with a supple tree branch.
* * * * *
Last week my companion and I were discussing cars, and how deadly they are. Deaths in war in the 20th century are nothing compared with deaths at the wheel. A skeptic would cavil, telling us automobile deaths are isolated and individual events. Bourgeois skeptics of this variety are a dime a dozen, and use the same reasoning to explain-away every crime of capitalism, from leukemia clusters near abandoned tox waste dumps to the spread of tuberculosis in prison populations. To such skeptics, every war, union-busting effort, or racist lynching is such an isolated incident, and those who attempt to connect these dots are "simple-minded" or "too ideological" or "conscpiracists".

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