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<nettime> The car park theory of American takeover
Geoff Manaugh on Fri, 5 Nov 2004 18:03:58 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> The car park theory of American takeover


A theory that has not found itself in wide circulation on nettime, and for
an understandable reason, is the one about too many car parks: that is, the
United States is full of parking lots - huge, paved, empty spaces built on
a scale that's literally inhuman - and so the only possible response a
person can have to them is to go to church and vote Republican...
Which is to say that the landscape, the built American landscape, is so
bleak, so out-of-scale when it comes to the human body, so incomprehensibly
empty, that the existential void it induces forces you to look for a holy
spot, a place with meaning, a place that makes sense. A psychogeographic
centre of some sort.
Someone like Jean Baudrillard comes to the United States and he sees Las
Vegas and he sees the desert and he sees massive roadside shopping
warehouses, and he interprets it all in terms of European secular Marxism,
and so it's all a kind of giddy, Heideggerian earth-lessness - but an
American doesn't do that. An American says, "Holy Christ, this place sucks
- I better go to church on Sunday, I'm lonely as hell. I'm lonely as
fuck-all. I need to find God."
The sheer quantity of parking lots - and highway flyovers and cloverleafs
and feeder roads and subsidiary rural routes to nowhere and redundant
overpasses circling dead cities  is a major factor in the creation of the
quote-unquote American personality. What it means to "be American".
In other words, you grow up in a paved void built on the scale of Hummers
and SUVs and you start to think, "Man, the world is total shite, the world
needs more purpose, the world needs more spiritual depth" - and you slowly
morph into a fundamentalist Christian.
It's a landscape problem. The American landscape creates a certain
personality structure.
It's intellectually exhilirating if you're prepared for it, if you've read
Baudrillard or Ballard or Iain Sinclair or Mark Taylor or avant-garde
architectural theory, but if you're illiterate and poor - ie., an American
- you turn to God.
And so of course Americans are right-wing Christian fundamentalists who vote
for George W. Bush. What else are you going to do when you're surrounded by
parking lots all day?
And that's the car park theory of American takeover.
Car parks - parking lots - are in the Republicans' direct interest. Build
more of the fucking things and you'll stay in power for the rest of - for
the life-span of concrete. And that's pretty fucking long, I think. I think
it is. Build a landscape that has absolutely no meaning at all, a vast,
abstract void of grey surfaces completely resistant to all but the most
persistant of poetic or interpretive projects (ie., Baudrillard), and
you're more or less generating religious fundamentalism.
You haven't heard this theory for two reasons: 1) it's ridiculous, and 2)
the Ouroborus effect, ie., there are so many fucking parking lots here you
don't even notice them! And so you don't realize the effect they have on
your cognitive relation to "the world". You have to go out into the
commuter belts of Surrey to find this in England, and not even there; JG
Ballard doesn't know the half of it. Brasilia? Fuck off.
The Taj Mahal of the future will not be the Guggenheim Bilbao but the
parking lot of a Home Depot in rural Alabama.
Parking lots are the Chartres's of tomorrow.
And they're responsible for re-electing Bush. It's not Karl Rove - it's vast
expanses of concrete.
There are, of course, optimistic ways of recuperating this landscape into
some kind of poetic project, ie., a Wordsworth - who was a dick, by the way
- of the car parks instead of the hills, a Wordsworth of the overpass (but
Ballard already fills that role), a John Muir of the Ikea multi-storey
parking deck, but first of all rural Americans are too full of industrial
pollutants, and therefore chromosomally mutating, to care, and they don't
know who Wordsworth is!
So they turn to God.
They are mutating, and they turn to God.
They walk to school - through a parking lot. If they walk to school.
They go across town - driving past incredibly huge parking lots. If there is
a town to cross.
They look out their windows - at shimmering fields of poured concrete.
And so they think secular modernism equals boring bullshit. They think
secular modernism equals existential meaninglessness.
But it's really just too many parking lots.
As long as there are this many parking lots religious fundamentalists will
always rule America.
And you heard it hear first. It's the car park theory of American takeover.


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