February 20, 2009

Automotive Wreckage And Crash's Law

By Robert Hariman.

Close your eyes, think Big Three auto companies, and open them again.

Just about perfect, isn’t it? An out-of-date vehicle with crappy decor designed to distract you from substandard engineering has been wrecked by a head-on collision. And what do we see now that the barrier between the car and the outside world has caved in? Utter darkness.

Even if you stagger away from the wreck, head-on collisions are particularly awful because you know you should have seen it coming. Although the crash explodes in an instant, it was developing well before: when people weren’t paying attention, when merely adequate brakes were installed, or barely adequate regulations enacted. The long aftermath of an accident is the other side of a long winding of the spring beforehand. Emily Dickinson said it best:

Ruin is formal — Devil’s work
Consecutive and slow –
Fail in an instant, no man did
Slipping — is Crash’s law.

The Big Three didn’t collide with market reality overnight. They had been warned and warned, but they looked the other way, as did a lot of other people. The result is broken glass, broken dreams, and a dark future.

The photograph is by Nicolai Howalt, from his series Car Crash Studies. I found the series at Amy Stein’s blog on photography. The poem is an excerpt from “Crumbling is not an instant’s Act.”

Cross posted from No Caption Needed.

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Robert Hariman
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