Monday, July 14, 2014

Our Vehicles, Our Selves

As we approached for the second to last meet of the season, the truck sat near the entrance of the swim club.  It was hard to miss.

It was a late-model short-bed crew-cab Ram pickup, and it had been significantly farkled up with accessories.  It was painted in arrest-me red, and rode high on brightly-chromed wheels.  The back window was festooned with stickers, all of which reflected a particular worldview.

To the right, a sticker announcing patronage at a chain of well-known commercial bars.  Center-top was a skull and crossbones.   Next to it, a faux-university sticker, announcing that the occupant was a graduate/alumnus of "FU."  And on the left, an image of a young woman bending over, accompanied by what was meant to be a humorous pro-Chrysler message.

"Dodge the Father, Ram the Daughter," it said.

It struck me as peculiar.

Here, a human being has chosen to encase himself in a vehicle that sends a very clear social signal to those around him.  It consistently messages a cohesive sense of that individual.

"I am a terrible person," he is saying.

What an unpleasant being that must be, I found myself thinking.   And then I wondered, why would I think that?  Is it judgmental to do so?  Am I making assumptions about the nature of this person?

They are saying: "I feel strong when I present images of death.  I enjoy intoxication.  I hate you, and--more subtly--I mock education.  I disrespect both parental love and the integrity of women.

Plus, I've taken a perfectly useful American working truck and spent thousands of dollars to sparkle it up like a Kardashian on the hunt for a new mate."

I found myself wondering further: What does this person think of themselves?  What patterns of thought rest in their mind, that they want to present themselves this way?

Perhaps they see themselves as a rebel, and view all people and all institutions cynically.  Perhaps they are uncritically self-indulgent, and get what they want by being aggressive towards others.  Or maybe they find giving offense to others amusing, and take the resulting offense as a sign that other people are either weak-willed or judgmental.  This may be a mask for woundedness, an insecurity born of pain.  It could reflect a glazed-eye sociopathy.  It could just be aping what passes for "I am a strong individual" in certain demographics.

There's just no way to know.

But it still strikes me as odd that any human being would want to present themselves as a terrible person.