Thursday, March 19, 2009

Let Them Truckers Roll!

In times of crisis, great men frequently look to the example of a fictional character for guidance.

When Thomas Jefferson was laboring to abolish the death penalty, he was often heard to say that he wished he had a magic hat like Fortunatus. Cecil Rhodes initially tried to win South African mineral concessions through ventriloquism, just like Carwin, the anti-hero of Charles Brockden Brown's 1798 novel Wieland, or The Transformation. After becoming acquainted with R.F. Outcault's Yellow Kid, Mahatma Gandhi wore a saffron kurta emblazoned with the words "Dis gang tinks dey kin queer me but wait an see."

Ronald Reagan based his presidency almost entirely on the character of Jack Browning, the dead-eyed reptilian thug he played in Don Siegel's 1964 version of The Killers. And George W. Bush, of course, was inspired by some guy's painting of a horse thief.

So it's no surprise that the wisest and most productive members of our society would try to overcome the existential threat of taxation by imitating — or at least talking about imitating — John Galt, that sempiternal blowhard and hero of misunderstood teen geniuses from Nova Scotia to Nome.

The thing is, they're doing it wrong. I've argued before that C.W. McCall's 1975 novelty hit Convoy is the finest explication of libertarianism ever penned, and I stand by the claim. The hero these people ought to be emulating is The Rubber Duck, who leads a group of liberty-lovin' truckers on an epic journey to nowhere, for reasons that are never made entirely clear. The song is a celebration of spontaneous collective action in defense of individual liberty, as conceived by people whose revolutionary outlook begins and ends with the glorification of their marginal role in late capitalism, who see speed zones and tollbooths as tyranny, and who would rather shit in their pants for three days straight than pull over and get hassled by The Man.

Let's consider the song's narrative in more detail. Through the democratizing power of CB radio — a sort of proto-Internet, if you will — truckers who are enraged by bureaucracy and speed limits and stuff conspire to drive together across the United States at top speed, without stopping for cops, scales, gas, food, or anonymous gay sex at rest areas.

Come on and join our convoy,
Ain't nothin' gonna get in our way.
We're gonna roll this truckin' convoy
Across the USA.
If that's not an inspiring metaphor for the crazy quilt of modern conservatarianism, what on earth is? The song even anticipates the Crunchy Con movement, with a reference to "eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse microbus."

The police set up roadblocks, prompting The Rubber Duck to boast "I'm about to go a-huntin' bear." Don't ask how, or with what, or to what conceivable end. It's attitude that really counts in life, and the Duck's righteous 'tude seemingly reduces the police to toothless slapstick figures, because despite having chicken coops and choppers, and "armored cars, and tanks, and jeeps, and rigs of every size," Smokey can't do a thing to stop the Duck and his band of brothers in their "thousand screamin' trucks." At least, not before they achieve this apotheosis:
I says, "Pig Pen, this here's the Rubber Duck.
We just ain't a-gonna pay no toll."
So we crashed the gate doin' ninety-eight.
I says, "Let them truckers roll, 10-4!"
The song specifies that the toll is a dime, and there's a thousand trucks, so that's — wait a moment now, while I fetch the abacus — that's one hundred dollars that wasn't extorted from truck-drivin' men to maintain the roadbeds on which they ply their trade. Starve the beast!

It's not clear what happens next to these freedom fighters, but who cares? The important thing is that for a brief time, these men were members of a high-speed vehicular mob that could do anything except handle a sharp turn.

Why shouldn't disaffected conservatives and libertarians stage a similar populist revolt (or at least threaten us with one)? These folks have always had a hard time deciding whether they're William F. Buckley, Jr. or Hulk Hogan, but given the general mood of the country, I think it's time to come down from Parnassus and groove with the People.

I mean, going Galt is all well and good, but it's a bit too upscale, amirite? A bit too stilted and recherche? Organizing a series of national anti-socialist "Convoys," where people race around hootin' and hollerin' and wastin' gas to no clear purpose, would be much more likely to excite the Common Man than Ayn Rand's mindnumbing sophistries. Plus they'd have a readymade theme song. (And a movie, come to think of it, which the New York Times described as "a big, costly, phony exercise in myth-making, machismo, romance-of-the-open-road nonsense and incredible self-indulgence." That clinches it; I really do think we have the makings of an awesome new white-guy uprising here.)

Come on and join our Convoy, America! We ain't a-gonna pay no toll! It's not like you actually have to "crash the gates doin' ninety-eight"; you can simply talk about how cool it would be if someone else did it. Hell, you don't even have to know how to drive, really; this is more about the freedom that driving ideally represents, where you're not hampered by nanny-state obstacles like insurance and stop signs and road crews and bears in the air. As I said before, it's the attitude that counts; what matters is not what you actually do, but which absurd adolescent wish-fulfillment fantasy would guide you if you ever did do anything besides boring the birds out of the trees with your anti-civilization horseshit.

As for myself, I've decided to protest the prison-industrial complex by going Tenzil Kem. Of course, this doesn't mean that I'll actually eat iron latticework, any more than the people who claim to be going Galt will actually shut the fuck up, forfeit their incomes, banish themselves to the wilderness, and die in a shootout over who's gonna dig the latrine. But it does demonstrate my high ideals, don't you think?


Anonymous said...

I remember the big CB craze of the mid '70s. I was in junior high school, and thought it was kinda cool.

Which is about the same age/intelligence ratio for today's Galt goers. Except I grew out of my 7th grade fads. They want to make it a world view.

Jazzbumpa said...

You make a good case, but my favorite Libbuhterreriam is still Robert A. Heinline.

Phooey on trucks. The Roads Must Roll.