Tom Richardson wrote:General Motors alone spends $1.8billion a year encouraging the purchase and use of its vehicles and they're just one of several. They're spending this money to create an image that motoring is something good to do. Governments also want you to keep driving because if people stopped (or even just drove a bit less) GDP would go through the floor. And infrastructure is set up to suit motoring because its what people have been persuaded to do and because that's good for GDP too.
It's like the film 'The Matrix' where we're living in an illusion where motoring is the norm. People even consider it essential. I had one of the red pills a while ago and saw that the reality is a bit different. They don't want you to know this of course and people who have bought the advertisers dream don't want to accept it either.
Although The Matrix is a terrible Yank filum full of guns and impossible chases, the theme of two realities - the hidden reality and the constructed reality - is a very interesting one. Michel Foucault, a French historian-philosopher-anthropologist-you-name-it describes the fundamental assumptions of a culture-nation-society as it "power" - the set of ideas that are regarded as the base rock of all the details; and which include the tests-for-truth processes and fundamental "facts". The power is the set of beliefs and resultant institutions within a society that make it and its human constituents behave as they do in an almost unconscious (certainly unquestioning) fashion.
These powers don't necessarily align well with everyone's reality (example, most religions in a seculars society) but manage to obscure this by erecting social institutions and practices that obscure one sort of reality by building another highly persuasive artificiality - just as in The Matrix.
Ole Foucault then produced a series of histories concerning the evolution (the "genealogy") of various modern institutions, including the justice-penal systems of The West, the modern notions of madness-psychology-psychiatry and a radical re-telling of the history of our sexual mores. He did this by doing "archaeology" - a superfine sifting of low-level historical material looking not for the overt and conscious explanations and justifications of the time but for all those less obvious but extremely telling influences giving rise to various cultural beliefs and practices.
Whether you agree with his analysis of the above subjects or not, what Foucault illuminated was the ability of various human cultures to offer radically different perspectives of the same real-life events. There is no "scientific" or "absolute" history; no definitive truth capturing the super-real or essence of historical human events. There are only competing viewpoints that are more or less cohesive and more or less persuasive to a given culture and those who are constructed by it.
One day there will be an alternative history of the combustion engine and the car. It will not be like those Great British Empire Histories that they gave us at school in the 50s and 60s (all good, for the benefit of all) but a rather different perspective - perhaps that of the millions of victims rather than that of the numerous Mr Toads and those manufacturers who create and serve the Toads, along with their bottom line.
We cyclists (some of us) already have an inkling of this alternative history and the reasons the car has come to have such a prominence.