we live within the choices we make. we inhabit our own design. we are not on a route to utopia, we live within it everyday. the path we choose through the city everyday, this is our utopia. now that we have the ability to change our body, the choice to not change our body is as much a design as the choice to not change our body.
utopia excludes. choices exclude. riding on the bus excludes certain benefits of riding in the car. the car is quicker, more direct, instantaneous. the car is a vehicle which can respond immediately to desire through electrical and mechanical means. through speed and steering, the driver and the driver’s desires become one process, requiring no thought. through stereo systems and air conditioning and power locks. through adjustable inflatable heated seats that remember what position you like. through remote starters and radio stations. through trunks and cup warmers and cellular phones and tv/vcrs. through GPS and emergency road service and car alarms. the car is an embodiment of utopia. and the most important aspect of this utopia is that it is your utopia. and individualized, customized system designed to anticipate, supply and react to your every desire. this is a private utopia. one which must be protected to ensure exclusion. the vehicle excludes the heat, transforming and controlling the temperature and humidity to your specifications. the vehicles excludes the sound, transforming and controlling the environment into the sounds or silence of your desire. the vehicle excludes others, through locks, car alarms, windows and speed, transforming and controlling the space within your car, no matter where it is parked or driving, into your own personal territory you can claim as your own. (you must pay to sit still, circulation space is still relatively free) this is a very odd aspect of the twentieth century. that not only can you own a static space, a place, but you can also own a dynamic space. you own a bubble of space which can be positioned as you desire. circulation space is not free space, but a space owned by rapidly changing owners.
the vehicle excludes chance. through speed the exterior becomes a movie to the interior. something which rarely affects the viewer. the vehicle must be reliable so that chance will not interfere. the vehicle excludes the chance of sitting next to drunken cubs fans singing take me out to the ball game in french. the vehicle excludes the chance of sitting next to the guy with the bottle top and m&m’s sitting on top of the chicago sun-times trying to hustle $20’s with his version of guess which cap. the vehicle excludes the chance of overhearing the girl who just moved talking about her new apartment and the cat. the vehicle excludes the arguments over the woman with the stroller. the vehicle excludes the smells of too many days without a place to clean up. the vehicle excludes the large man with the new baby, dressed with every baby accessory you could imagine. the vehicle excludes the street musician at the train stop. the vehicle excludes running into your neighbors on your way home. the vehicle excludes the entire walk from your bus stop to your destination. the vehicle excludes chance. the vehicle excludes the largest producer of chance: anyone else. why couldn’t we all just drive whatever car is parked in front of wherever we are to wherever we want to go? a massive dynamic public transportation system? because the car is a personalized utopia. it is owned. and this ownership is what allows us to remove the chance that we won’t get as good a car as what we dropped off. that we won’t get as clean a car. that we won’t have to share a car. that we get ‘what we deserve’. and what we deserve means preserving what we have acquired. it means eliminating chance (except the chance that we will get more than what we deserve of course).
but we are also excluding when we ride the bus…. we exclude our own ability to control. we are no longer in a personalized utopia which we can claim as our own. however, we did choose to give up this control. does this choice make it our utopia? have we chosen one utopia over another? the ability to have utopia makes all choices utopian. if we have air conditioning and choose not to use it, this is because we believe that there is more to be gained from the fresh air. the choices we make continually design the utopia we inhabit. but there is a distinction still between the bus and the car. in the car we have excluded more chance than we have in the bus. while we chose to ride the bus, did we choose to have the drunken cubs fans? we chose between public and private, between chance and non chance. but we did not control the chance. we had the ability to avoid the drunken cubs fans by driving. we chose to include chance in our design. we chose to include public in our utopia. but is it really chance? yes. is it really beyond our control? no. this is what makes modern life utopian. at any moment, when it gets too hot, i can turn the air conditioner on. we retain control by retaining our ability to control. we choose to put ourselves in environments which are more or less our design, which remain more or less under our control. the bus is less under my control than the car, but at any moment i could get off of the bus. there are those situations which are out of our control. between subway stops… we can only change subway cars. caught between buildings without an umbrella. these are errors in judgment, times when we should have chosen to retain control and did not. we should have remembered our umbrella. we shouldn’t have been in that neighborhood at that time of night. we shouldn’t have been on that bus. we shouldn’t have raised our children in that school district. we shouldn’t have chosen to put ourselves in a position beyond our control. we should live in an airtight box. crime happens when you impose your will on others, when you take control of their ability to control without their approval. why is it that when someone gets a bullet through their head, there is always an explanation? an explanation such as.. ‘gang related,’ ‘drug related,’ ‘gang crossfire,’ ‘domestic dispute.’ it is only when the bullet crosses the line of exclusion that it makes the front-page. it was front page material when someone walked into a suburban school and shot a kid through the back of the head while he was sitting at his computer. but then it was explained the next day that the kid had just moved up from chicago and it was gang related. and after that it was buried in the middle of the paper. the kid deserved it in other words. it’s ok people, you are still in control. why is it that when someone gets a bullet through their window the first question is, “where do you live?” in other words, if you live in their neighborhood, it is something to be alarmed by because it threatens their control. if you live in another neighborhood you deserved it because you chose that neighborhood, because you chose to live somewhere beyond control. because you chose to give up control. you shouldn’t have been walking in that alley at that time of night. it is not only a crime to be a criminal, it is a crime to be a victim.
but how many choices do we have within absolute control? maybe we are approaching this in the wrong way. maybe we don’t have absolute control. maybe it doesn’t matter what you did, you still didn’t deserve to be killed. maybe it was totally random. rather than try to minimize the chances of anyone getting killed, we try to minimize the chance of our self getting killed. there is a redistribution of the odds in other words. there is still a chance that someone is going to get killed, but it is more likely you than me. we will take the good of technology, you will shoulder the bad. maybe instead of putting out less benches because people sleep on them, we should put out so many benches that people couldn’t possibly sleep on all of them. maybe instead of making spray paint and graffiti illegal in chicago, everyone should grab a can of spray paint and cover the city. maybe instead of explaining it away as gang related we should be concerned about every murder in every neighborhood. maybe we can absorb it, assimilate it, include it. now these are truly utopian dreams. utopia excludes because of economy. we can not solve the problems of modern society, but we can distribute. “are we certain that what is one man’s gain is not another’s loss?” (thoreau, walden 43) we are certain that it is. which is why there is such a complex system of exclusion.