“Guys love cars. We know that. So we asked a lifelong chronicler of our national automotive obsession … to tell us why this is so – and always will be.”
I read these lines in Men’s Health, and thought what total BS they were. Some men hate cars, and think they threaten our very survival as a species. (You can pick out the intelligent men by the fact that we are usually on bikes, not in cars!)
However, it WOULD be true to say that “Most men love cars.” And most women too. And that really puzzles me. I find it bizarre that we as a society so easily accept that our cities are crammed full of deadly machines – and actually LOVE these machines.
These machines have not only played a major role in polluting our entire planet, but they also kill thousands of people every day. And they don’t just kill pedestrians and cyclists – they kill the people INSIDE cars as well. Every weekend there is a newspaper story of yet another life cut tragically short, young parents killed, children killed …
Imagine if there was a ride at the fun fair with a big warning sign like this:
“Warning: this ride may cause severe injury and death. Occasionally riders are burnt alive. Ride at your own risk!”
I am willing to bet my house that absolutely NO parents would let their kids go on this ride. But they let their kids ride in cars – the things in our society that are MOST likely to kill children. How strange it is that parents deliberately put their children inside the thing most likely to kill them – cars.
Sure, we try to protect them with car seats … but this is kind of paradoxical, because at some level, what it says is that we KNOW that when we put our kids in cars, we are putting them in danger. But we do it anyway.
I am as guilty of this collective insanity as any one else. For years I drove my kids around in cars, and never stopped to think that by doing so, I was exposing them to possible death.
The mystery to me is why we so easily accept the truly unacceptable level of risk that is created by cars. NO ONE is safe from them. We even read stories of people killed in their homes by cars coming through the walls. And babies killed by cars in their strollers in crosswalks, or even on the sidewalk.
We lament the lives lost to terrorist attacks and in wars – but turn an entirely blind eye to the immeasurably greater carnage, death, injury, misery, tragedy, and destruction inflicted by cars. Broken limbs, broken lives, broken hearts … we just serenely suck it all up. (And the funny thing is that we simultaneously tell ourselves that we are a society that places a high value on human life.)
I just keep asking myself WHY? All I can come up with is that we are so addicted to the “convenience” and “freedom” of cars that we will give up anything for it – even our lives, and the lives of our loved ones. Yet the convenience and freedom of cars is largely an illusion – as I was biking home tonight, I was looking at all the people trapped in their cars in traffic gridlock, and thinking, “HOW is that freedom and convenience?” and also “WHY is that worth dying for?”
I just don’t get it. Although I suspect it has to do with the major role that cars and oil play in international economics – big business literally can’t afford to allow society to get rid of cars. I am reading a book called Carjacked: The Culture of the Automobile and Its Effect on Our Lives. The authors, Anne Lutz Fernandez and Catherine Lutz, started to question their lifelong devotion to cars after losing a loved one in a car crash (coincidentally, the same situation that caused me to start questioning our car-based culture).
By the time I finish this book, I hope to have more understanding of what I see as one of the biggest mysteries of our world – the fact that we will go heavily into debt to buy something that will potentially kill us, or our children, or somebody else. Bizarre …
In the meantime, see my next post, Do Cars Attract Women?
Yo AverageJoe (dawg), I heard you liked blog posts, so I made a blog post about your (very informative) blog post! – cars2scrap.
I believe there are different categories for people who “love cars”.
Car enthusiasts, who work on OLDER model cars usually have a greater respect for the road and the people on them.
I think for most other people they just like cars because they buy into the culture we have built around cars. How many shows, movies or even commercials show the average guy getting the hot girl because of his car?
Think of dating…Nearly all women expect you (the guy) to have a car, or at the very least a license. This attitude *might* be different if your living in a city such as Montréal, Vancouver or Toronto (the downtown core).
In most of Europe this isn’t even an issue as cycling, walking, trams and trains are the preferred method of getting around.
I remember watching something on CBC Vancouver last year, asking why don’t more Asians ride in Metro Vancouver. The answer many older Asians came up with? “Class. Cars are viewed as you being successful.” Sadly this is still the view by nearly everyone (of every race) across this country.
Copenhagenize showed a warning sticker for the side of cars recently. If cigarettes are required to have warnings, why not cars? Is it not the #1 killer for people under 35 in the USA?
I’ve always thought Canada should look to Germany. It may not be a Netherlands or Denmark in the number of people who cycle, however Germany relies heavily on the auto-industry like Canada, yet they still promote the use of bikes and even have a campaign to make driving socially unacceptable.
Ryan, your point about the culture is very apt. This Carjacked book goes into that a lot. And as they point out, it starts when we are kids: movies like Herbie for example, that portray cars as if they are human. No wonder that in the Men’s Health article I referred to, the author argues that two reason mens love their cars is because of the “relationship” they have with them, and because their cars understand them!!! (It’s a lump of metal, guys!)
The status and gender issues are just as complex and troubling. A guy with a car is more likely to get a date. Picking her up on your crossbar – not cool (unless you’re Paul Newman, singing in the rain in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid!). And there’s a kind of thinking that someone without a car has somehow failed. Loelia Ponsonby, one of the wives of the 2nd Duke of Westminster, famously said “Anybody seen in a bus over the age of 30 has been a failure in life.” Never mind that anyone who never gets any exercise after the age of 30 is likely to die before they reach 60 …
Great post, especially the part about how we seem to turn a blind eye to the destruction and death that cars cause, as if it is somehow uncontrollable or out of our power. Thanks for writing this.
Hi Rhiannon, nice to hear from you (especially since you inspired me to write this post), and you’re welcome!
It does seem like we have totally abdicated responsibility and control, doesn’t it? We’re like “we cannot live without cars , they are essential to our lives, we’re just stuck with them … Too bad about that whole destroying the planet thing. Oh well …” !