Friday, March 31, 2017

How An Old Lobbying Film From 1954 Can Tell Us So Much...

...About not only the limited ways we viewed things in the past (not even beginning to imagine the hidden costs of sprawl, exhaust pollution, road runoff pollution, or what the increasing demand for a particular fuel would do to our foreign policy, and security costs), but also provide us with a metaphor for what we face now.

The deficiencies that this film is trying to make us aware of, whatever the ultimate motivation might have been to provide them, illustrates how you could ask very similar questions about the delivery, and maintenance, of any key piece of infrastructure in today's America. Our roads and highways. Our means to coordinate the production, and distribution of electrical, or gas fired power. Our systems of clean water production and distribution. Our systems to properly collect, and treat human, as well as industrial, sewage. Our system to provide commercial aviation ports and safe flight routing. Etc. And these are just the big, physical flow systems. Don't forget that most critical human services are merely delivery systems of one form or another as well; as in, say, healthcare, or overall information pathways, not to mention affordable housing, and food.

What this film is talking about has been repeated many times over, and will likely be repeated again and again, assuming things hold together long enough. And the basic problem is also as it has always been: who pays, and who benefits the most.

Obviously, a manufacturer of cars might have other reasons for making this pitch than simple civic altruism, but it serves to beg the point: If the way we go about making these decisions has come to a very complicated impasse, perhaps it's time to start asking basic question on how we operate as a whole system. Maybe that system, as a whole, is broken, just like the old roads shown in the film, beyond the point of continually trying to put a patch here, or there. Perhaps its time, in fact, to start over and figure out an entirely new approach.

Maybe the green light here is to give yourself permission to ask about what might have seemed to be a very radical notion, even only a year ago. Radical only because we've kept our vision too narrowly focused for too long. Radical only because what we once thought was way beyond crazy last year is quite common place now (Republicans sucking up to Russians? Russians sucking up to Fascists? A White House one can now only describe as some kind of suicidal clown car that doesn't seem to have breaks, steering wheel, or anybody who could use them even if they were there. Are you kidding me?)

More things to think about. More things to be better informed about. More reason to ask deeper questions. More reason for you, and your friends, to take peaceful action.

Better Roads: "Give Yourself the Green Light" 1954 GM; Lobbying for Interstate Highway System