A history of the Wheel

A history of the Wheel

Am heading down to Sydney in a couple of weeks to John Ladler’s Cut Snake studios to edit a strange film, about the history of the wheel and where it has got us (via a shopping trolley, marooned on Coffs Creek).

Short extract from a film.The wheel: From an ingenious potter to how did we get here?’, 2021

‘For the first time in history, more people die today from eating too much than from eating too little.’[1]

Wheels on Fire

Ferdinand Porsche created the Lohner-Porsche, the world’s first gasoline-electric hybrid and all-wheel drive car in 1900. Two years later he was drafted as chauffeur to Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. In 1934 he was contracted to design the Kdf-Wagen (strength through joy).

Henry Ford smiled from Hitler’s office wall. Capitalism and Nationalist Socialism built the autobahns described by Hitler as ‘overtures to peace’. A few techno-optimists believed him, but the autobahns were designed for rapid troop movements. In 1937 the Nazi trades union organisation, the Deutsche Arbeitsfront, at the request of the Fuhrer, established The Volkswagen Company. The aim was to create a ‘people’s car’, very few Germans owned cars at the time.[2]

Porsche was an active Nazi and was in good terms with Hitler who commissioned him to design the car. Hitler promised one for every family, but production quickly switched to the war machine and its moving parts: grenades, land mines and V1 drones. Porsche involved himself in the production of advanced tanks and the V-1 drone nicknamed doodlebug by the British.

Wernher von Braun devoured science fiction as a child then studied physics and mathematics to understand the fundamentals of rocketry. Before he became director of NASA’s Space Flight Centre and presenter for Disney programs on how America was going to the moon, he designed V2 rockets for Hitler. These were much more sophisticated and lethal than V1s. Germany launched more than 3,000 V2 missiles indiscriminately killing over 5,000 people. And more than 20,000 concentration camp prisoners died assembling these weapons.’[3]

Wheels are becoming obsolete in war. The latest weapon systems are drones and lasers.

‘No human invention has destroyed the civilization that invented it. We haven’t been careful or wise —just lucky.’ [4]

[1] Yuval Harari, Homo Deus : A Brief History of Tomorrow, Harvill Secker, 2015.

[2] Tim Bowler, ‘Volkswagen: From the Third Reich to emissions scandal’, BBC News, 2.10.2015.

[3] Alejandro De La Garza, ‘How Historians Are Reckoning with the Former Nazi Who Launched America’s Space Program’, Time, July 18, 2019.

[4] Aeon headline, Nick Bostrom, Matthew van der Merwe ‘How vulnerable is the world?’, 12.2.2021.

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