Monday, July 14, 2014
Our Vehicles, Our Selves
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.