Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the southern United States would have noticed the abundance of large vehicles on the roads. These large vehicles - sports utility vehicles and pickup trucks - are something that I have always associated a rural agricultural lifestyle, where such a large vehicle has a utilitarian value in their everyday life;
But more often that not in the South, you see these large vehicles being used for the every day commute to work or school;
The most curious example of this behaviour is the large number of large vehicles at my appartment complex, which is mostly occupied by university students, that drive their vehicles less than several miles a day to attend class. Yet, despite living within walking distance of the university, and despite it being a lot more cost effective to own a more modest compact car, the appartment complex's parking lot is overwhelmed with large four-wheel drive SUVs and oversided pickup trucks. Is owning and maintaining such a large vehicle not only a large financial and environmental burden, but also simply a waste of space?
While I stress that cities and automobiles do not mix, I understand that for many people raised and currently living in an suburban environment that is heavily car-dependent, they view owning an automobile as a necessity. But why are they attracted towards owning the largest vehicle they can possibly afford?The Deadly Sin
Despite the heavy tolls of car-dependency in our communities as I have talked about in previous posts, I would expect that university students - the educated class of the future - would be the most conscientious and educated about their own lifestyle and environmental footprint. For the simple cause of communiting to class and back, a much smaller vehicle would be more than adequate for the task of transportation, while consuming much less fuel, taking up less space, and being less dangerous to others around them.
So what motivates so many Americans to buy these large fuel consuming beasts, despite having no sort of rural utilitarian need for them? Is it a case of heoric materialsm, where they pride themselves on bigger being better? Or do they get joy from driving these fuel-guzzling beasts - expressing their individuality through gluttonous over-consumption of a limited and polluting natural resource?
In the bible belt, the religious stronghold of the South, I would have expected urges such as pride and gluttony to be supressed due to the socio-religious pressures of the community. Perhaps rebellion against their traditional values could justify it for some, but even the occasional rebellious forces of a few could not define what is the norm here.The Suburban Warzone
I did some research behind what motivates so many Americans to drive large vehicles and there appears to be a disturbing mentality that the suburban road likened to a warzone, where large vehicles are viewed as a neccessary personal fortification against the other large vehicles on the road;
Even to the point where you are more fortified (excluding the weaponry) than a military convoy;
Is this what we have degraded our own cities to? Something we should not be part of, but rather be protected against? How did our view change from cities and streets being friendly inviting places filled with rich culture, heritage, and a sense of community that you enjoyed being a part of;
To being dangerous warzones full of roads that should fear for your survival each time you try to make it home from work?
Even our earliest ancestors that witnessed the first automobile could not even imagine it. We have come a long way from their happy days of;
We see our own cities, our own creations, as the enemy. We try to distance ourselves from it as far as practically possible by living and building on the suburbian
outskirts, trying to protect us and our children by not letting them leave the house without their pepper spray and SUV, to the point that our best intentions are actually
the root cause of the problem? That's an extremist view of the undertone I'm seeing implied here - and it's a dangerous one at that.
I can't help but relate it to the underlying political tones of the Cold War (we need nukes because the Soviets have nukes) and gun politics (we need guns because the bad guys have guns). We need to drive these huge fortified fuel-guzzling war machines because everyone else on the road does.
I still haven't familiarised myself with the common American to fully understand them, but I am trying to stay open minded to gain a greater grasp.