by Michael Kitz
Hummer, it's implications
|The Curious Social Fad of the Humvee
By Michael Kitz
Like many movements, it came about as a collection of like sentiments shared, an objectification of the real anxieties and larger concerns of our modern world. As I think back on it here, in review, it's been growing below the surface for some time, but I wasn't struck by it until just last week when I was driving with a neighbor of mine back from the grocery store on a sunny Saturday and a school-bus yellow Hummer pulled out in front of us as we drove down Old William Penn highway. Now I didn't think that it was a particularly dangerous pull-out, given the speed limit and the scope of sight, and my neighbor was usually more of the laid-back type, more apt to forgive and forget then give in to any bout of road-rage, but to my surprise my neighbor let forth a slew of expletives and whacked on the horn.
“I hate these bastards.” He said to me.
“Oh, do you know them?” I asked.
“Not personally,” He said, “But you know: that type of person.”
I considered what he meant for a moment. Was he referring to the town we were in? I knew from previous conversations, having grown up around here, he had recognized certain collective traits in some townships. Some towns, when mentioned, he would remind me “yeah, but they're cake-eaters,.” or “now those people know the meaning of a full days work.” Or perhaps he was referring to the color of the vehicle, knowing as I did that my neighbor harvested much meaning from the colors people wore, drove and adorned their houses with: “red meant: look-at-me!, blue meant: be cool, gold meant: I'm old and racist, and so on; while I didn't agree with such stereotyping I always was interested by the moral indicators people form from their experiences. I quickly realized that what he was talking of, or should I say spouting off about, was the fact that the person had purchased and now drove residentially, a Hummer or Humvee.
My neighbor had judged this strangers character by the fact he had chosen this type of car. In fact, he claimed extreme dislike for this person or persons based solely on that fact, and he wasn't alone. As I came to find out, he was actually in the sometimes-silent majority, or so it seemed as I began research by accident.
While in a local watering hole not long after the news was on and we were all only watching to put our eyes somewhere, but then an accident appeared and they had live coverage on the scene. A Hummer had flipped on the highway and to my great surprise, most of the room erupted in in applause, cheers and some triumphant laughter. What was going on? These people were a perfect cross-section of Americana, commonly discussing and propagating such virtues as tolerance, charity, empathy, loyalty, and champions of The Golden Rule; but here they were: celebrating the image of a flipped Hummer, as if it satisfied in them some great anger or fear they had been forced to harbor for too long and here it came, without shame, oblivious to the fact that it was a fellow American who was victim to the catastrophe. My mind began churning like it did during these social quandaries. What was this phenomenon and why was it so?
I began to think of my own feelings towards these automobiles known as Hummers and the people who drove them known for now on as Hummeroos. I certainly didn't harbor any resentment or ill-will towards these Hummeroos, on the surface anyway. I realized I had casually considered those who chose to purchase that sort of vehicle with no real practical utility for such a vehicle as one who was lacking in some degree of intelligence, perhaps not very aware of the concerns of the country, shameless status hunters, and even victims of flash fads and the hard-sell.
But these perceived faults were not to be branded as character qualities of an enemy, to the contrary, for in many ways these very characteristics had become cloche's of us, the common American. It doesn't prove useful to hate ignorance, only to educate it, for all humans are most rich in what they do not know and have not experienced or learned.
But the more I thought about it I realized that this reaction of intolerance was really against those actual individuals, but it was what they are seen to stand for that is the real object of dislike.
Calling their reactions the result of jealousy doesn't hold water because of the fact most of the Anti-Hummeroos had vehicles and mechanical toys that were as or more expensive, more impressive and more coveted. And seemingly none of them felt it necessary to be humble or unextravagant when acquiring or discussing them. Why the resentment towards this particular piece of machinery above all others. What exactly did it procure in the mind of the everyman that caused him such disgust.
I have been somewhat familiar with the Humvee and its associates for more than fifteen years, before it secured its contract with the U.S. Defense department, when it was known as a specialty vehicle designed specifically for off-road use in difficult terrain. Its main novelty was rooted in the wheels which had instead of a front and rear axle, which was so vulnerable to damage from rocks, stumps and any other obstacle of the wild, the Hummer had independent wheels boxes behind each wheel which allowed each wheel its very own control, power, and more flexibility. It's shape was simply the most basic frame and panels to make it as easy as possible to repair and maintain.
The recent popularity of the Hummer is owed in no small part to the war in Iraq, and perhaps the fact that Hummer is a war profiteer leaves some with a bad flavor, consciously or not. As the Jeep and Harley Davidson's of WWII found, being a granted a contract with the most powerful army on Earth is a road paved with gold.
Many people who I discussed this subject with came to the conclusion that most of the resentment of Hummeroos stems from some aspect of the Hummers fuel consumption. Some suspected it was the fact that the Humvee show a blatant disregard for our nations push to rely less on petroleum. Hummers have notoriously poor fuel economy, in short they are “gas-guzzlers”, and not only do they spew much more poisonous fumes into the atmosphere we all live in, but they increase the demand for gas which helps drive up fuel costs, even if in a virtually insignificant way. This is being sighted as a major contributor to most peoples discomfort with a vehicle which is an obvious regression of our society and its values, and the people who support this vehicle seem to be spitting into the face of progress and improvement, whether consciously or not.
Are they safer? Maybe for the people inside, but for everyone else, the sheer large size and boxy shape lending itself to poor perimeter awareness increases the danger of accidents, to other vehicles and especially other people not driving, therefore raising insurance rates and increasing road paranoia. They increase traffic, congestion, diminish parking capacities, not to mention helping thwart all emissions goals and clean air bills forcing the legislation of more and stricter emissions rules and clean-air bills.
Also, given the valuable shift that recent years have witnessed after the terrible of folly of the SUV revolution, it must either be arrogance or unvarnished stupidity to fall prey to the consumerism of a machine that impressively surpasses every fault of its SUV predecessor. Perhaps this personification of the American Folly of the near past is too much for most other Americans to bear. It is all that our past short-sighted selfish selves are trying to rectify, to improve, and yet here is a new example of our ever-blaring incapacity to learn or grow. You almost expect to horn to blare, “And you thought we had learned something! Fool!”
After surveying all the reasons not to acquire one of these cars it is not as astounding to find that there is a large and growing portion of citizens who are passionately anti-hummeroo. A more difficult question than “Should I like a Hummeroo?” is “Can I even respect a Hummeroo?” Does a questionable decision on a vehicle really expose an individual to be a selfish buffoon?
Maybe we are focusing too much on the negative. After all, the Hummer is an American product providing jobs for our fellow Americans, Right? And in a recession like now, it is all the more valuable to have a successful enterprise on our side to get us through. While the new lines of Hummers are not made the same as the Hummer of old, they do share a reputation for lasting a good, long time with minimum need of repair. Certainly this will improve the perceived quality of American goods (if the new Hummers do continue the tradition, only time will tell.). Wouldn't it be nice to return to a time when things lasted and could be handed down?
Also, isn't it our heritage to value the biggest, the toughest, and the strongest above all else?
Maybe the Hummer has become a sort of status symbol for some people to express themselves with, the same sort of thinking that causes one to pay five thousand dollars for a pocketbook that cost less than ten dollars to manufacture. God knows that certain cars have always been a way to say, "Look, I am successful in a monetary way!" In a culture of consumerism, what we buy and who made it is often more valuable to us then why we buy it
And maybe increasing our energy crisis will hurry up the creation of alternative engines and transportation. It might even be that the Hummeroo's are concerned that when we do make the inevitable shift to alternative engines and the like, those who profit from petroleum won't have enough wealth stashed away and might have to adapt. So in a way, they're looking out for the big guy, which not enough of us do these days, if you ask me.
It might come about that Hummer itself solves the fuel consumption problem, and then it could just be another proud, much-larger-than-necessary American product.
Though really, in a society that totes liberty and equality we seem to be forcing more opinionated rules and fragmentation down each others throats and that's certainly a shame. For freedom to be freedom we can't just tolerate the best choices or even good choices, we must be free also to make bad choices or unwise choices as well. Actually, it is the minority groups, those that are not most popular or most mainstream, that do the most to preserve the essence of liberty. It is the smokers, the independents, and yes, even the Hummeroos, and all others unpopular that preserve the essence of freedom: that we should be able to do and believe what we want, as long as it doesn't impede anyone else from doing and believing what they want, without fear of oppression or attack. Sometimes it takes someone doing something that few Americans would do to keep the depth of choice available, especially if choosing these alternatives provides the variety and motley of points-of-view that inevitably lead to progress of evolution.
Perhaps its not even really about the Hummers and their wacky owners, the Hummeroos. Perhaps the problem is that we have too much excess anxiety over the fact that our real enemy's are cave-dwelling cowards, hiding ten thousand miles away, pretending to serve God, but really serving Ibliss, and we have no way to personally shake some blood back into their black hearts. Sometimes you got to just rage against what happens to be around.
An old fried of mine, who now is a fairly successful psychologist has formed the theory that in a time of fear, anxiety, and doubt it is not unusual for people to to remedy those emotions by buying something that exaggerates a cure to all those feelings. Certainly driving around in a tank must make someone believe that they are keeping themselves safe and secure even if the statistics show that to be a false hood. And while security is usually an enemy to freedom, the ideal of freedom is much better sung about than actually lived.
Have these Hummeroo’s done anything wrong? Not according to our constitution, but in the court of public opinion they are easy targets for a people itching to get their negative feelings out on something a little closer to home. As long as it stays a common outlet in social circles I see no real harm, just like the distaste for the rich who work little are notoriously despised by the poor who slave for their basics. It’s the pattern of every American to be outwardly upset about things of little consequence, just like it’s the right of every American to disregard the world for the satisfying of our own personal flavor of the moment. If anything its amusing. Of course if off-roading is a normal part of your routine , the Hummeroo should be exempt from any scorn, as its true purpose is being utilized. Either way, I wish those wacky Hummeroo’s the best, and it won’t be long to good old fashioned reason kicks in and we can get back to the Delorian.