Examining Snowmaggedon Streets without the Automobile

Many writers have pondered the human fascination with post-apocalyptic dramas. The first stories ever told involved plagues, rivers of blood, hell fire, the Earth splitting open and winged creatures reigning death down from Donald Trump‘s smiling face in the sky. Today’s pop culture landscape is chock full of killer zombies, killer robots, and killer mystery planets.

Pre-history end time narratives arose from a fear of death and a need to explain cataclysmic natural disasters. Today, our fascination with a stateless world comes, I’d like to think, from a desire to return to a pre-industrial society. This may not be an entirely conscious desire, but it’s still there.

Specifically, deep down we long for the face-to-face personal connections we’ve lost in a world where common space is dominated by distracting advertisements, personal tech devices, and millions upon millions of automobiles.

The U.S. never built the grand public plazas that Europe did. For the most part, our streets served as communal meeting places humans needed for hundreds of years. Then, we threw that all away out of a perverted demand for convenience and modernization that backfired horrifically. The evidence of what we lost is well documented, you can still examine American street life before the automobile.

On rare occasion we’ll open our streets back up to people, but only for a few hours at a time. Even rarer, if we’re lucky, Mother Nature will do the job even better, shutting down all the cars, and giving us a fantastic taste of what our ancestors took for granted: streets open to us, not machines.

During this weekend’s Snowmaggedon the East Coast was buried under some 25 inches of pure white powder. Twitter users in New Jersey, Washington DC, Maryland, and New York and all points in between documented masses of people joyously exploring their own streets like never before. It’s a stark reminder of what we could enjoy every day if we were willing to make a radical leap towards bikes and mass transit, and abolished subsidies for driving and parking.

Take a gander at the Tweets embedded below, and cross your fingers that on some Day After Tomorrow the snowmaggedon fun comes your way.

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See you in the streets.
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