12 February 2010

Upside Down - The Sacred Car


One of our readers, Sam, mentioned that an essay by the Uruguayen poet and writer Eduardo Galeano was required reading in his sustainable transportation class.

The essay is titled The Sacred Car and is in the book Upside Down - A Primer for the Looking-Glass World.

It's a fantastically eloquent and yet scathing attack on car culture. It starts with:

"Human rights pale beside the rights of machines. In more and more cities, especially in the giant metropolises of the South, people have been banned. Automobiles usurp human space, poison the air, and frequently murder the interlopers who invade their conquered territory - and no one lifts a finger to stop them. Is there a difference between violence that kills by car and that which kills by knife or bullet?"

The rest of the essay is just as to the point. I've never had anything in common with a respected Uruguayen - writer or otherwise - before but I'm pleased how his title The Sacred Car is reflected in the essay about The Sacred Bull in Society's China Shop.

Indeed, he writes in the essay that:
"I saw a cigarette ad in a magazine with the required public health warning: 'Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide.' But the same magazine has several car ads and not one of them warned that car exhaust, nearly always invisible, contains much more carbon monoxide. People can't smoke. Cars can."

We have a solution for the health warning labels on cars. We're just waiting for someone to finance our efforts... :-)

All in all the essay is refreshing in its tone and no-nonsense approach to contemplating the destructive road we're all travelling down.

Salon has a piece about the book which is worth reading: "Upside Down" by Eduardo Galeano. The author of "Memory of Fire" delivers a scathing, mischievous indictment of North America's hypocrisy and consumer culture.

6 comments:

Lucas Jerzy Portela said...

Galenao wrote THE fundamental book about Latin America: "The Open Veins of Latin America". Wich Hugo Chavez recently gifted to President Obama.

The Book inspired the Hand Sculpture, in Latin America Memorial, São Paulo, Brazil - by the architect Oscar Niemeyer.

"The Open Veins" starts with a foreword. Title: "120million children in the middle of the storm. No one to save them".

wicked! mandatory!

there isn`t just misery. When he writes about Aleijadinho (handicapy, in portuguese), IMHO the greatest sculpture of the world between Michelangelo and Rodin, it`s like this:

"The desteny wanted that a leprous mixed-race anafalbetized man, living in a city where hanged buy the will of Her Majesty, be the greatest visual art that Latin America ever conceived. Not only genious, but truly a renacentist man lost in the mountains of Minas Gerais: he planed cities, churchs, and whole statues cenes involving 12 human pieces 3m high: The Prophets".

and, about Rio de Janeiro:

"a 8 year old boy that asks me for money to eat tells me he is proud of his country, state and city is building the biggest urban tunel in the planet. And he should be - although he probably will need to steel and beg to be abble to eat before night falls".

Galeano has a unique habilitie to put contradictions that are hiden in absolute and undeniable clarity.

lagatta à montréal said...

Would anyone have the original Castillian/Spanish of the "Sacred Car" online?

Here are some Galeano quotes: http://vivirenbicicleta.info/cit_edugal.es.html

indeed one quote is from "Patas arriba. La escuela del mundo al revés".

Is "La impunidad del sagrado motor" the original?

I'd thought "coche" (common in Southern Cone countries), but could be "motor".

Yes, Galeano is a splendid writer.

Sam Goater said...

Hi Mikael, thanks for mentioning the Galeano bit on the blog!! There were definitely no health warnings on the car ads during the Superbowl one of which was scary enough for me to put on the blog (I didn't see the game, I was watching the Arsenal)

Mikael said...

i've got the english version, lagatta. email me.

Kevin Love said...

I see that "Upside Down" is in our local public library. I think I'll get on my bike and go get it.

lagatta à montréal said...

Mikael, I'm looking for the Spanish (Castillian) original or a Portuguese translation. It is for a Brazilian ecologist friend. Thanks!