Sunday, September 02, 2012


A Bionic Roach

Guy Davenport (1927-2005), "A Letter to the Masterbuilder," in The Hunter Gracchus and Other Papers on Literature and Art (Washington: Counterpoint, 1997), pp. 144-153 (at 149):
It is useful in talking about the automobile to think of it as a creature, like Samuel Butler's Erewhonians who saw machines evolving at a much faster rate than animals (Butler had read Darwin and Malthus in his own way) and solved their rivalry by revolting against them. Butler was right. The automobile is a bionic roach. It eats cities. Another principle in operation with the automobile was discerned by Diogenes in the fifth century B.C.: namely, that a man who owns a lion is also owned by a lion. We are all owned by automobiles, creatures whom we must feed gas and oil (a necessity so transcending political rhetoric that we continued to buy oil from Iran while it held our citizens hostage, and from Libya while we bombed it), shoe with rubber, wash, and lavish with other attentions, not the least of which are lifelong car payments. It is the most successful of parasites, far beyond the wildest hopes of microbes or rats. There is no system of slavery in history as rigorous as our enslavement by the automobile.
Related post: American Culture.

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