A couple of weeks back, I threw out a relatively strong opinion on civilians who drive Hummers. At the time, I didn’t back up what I said, and fortunately I don’t have to now. Seth Stevenson has explained it for me in his analysis of a recent Hummer ad. The three points in the middle of the analysis very nicely sum up my perceptions of Hummer owners. Just past that, Seth says:
Of course, some will love the shameless Hummer kid and his take-no-prisoners, win-at-all-costs individualism. Not coincidentally, these are the sort of people who buy Hummers…. The Hummer kid is a me-first kid, and the Hummer is without doubt a me-first vehicle.
That ties it up all together for me, providing a near-perfect summary of reasons behind my opinion. I’m all for individualism, but not win-at-all-costs individualism. Sometimes victory is not worth the cost, and that’s usually when your victory damages those around you. Society plays an important role in all our lives, except of course for those of you living completely off the land—that is, no electricity, sewer, or heat utilities, and absolutely no trips to the grocery store for food—and those of us who benefit from society owe it some consideration and preservation in return. Express yourself as you see fit, believe what you want to believe, take chances and chart your own course… as long as it isn’t needlessly harmful to others, or to society as a whole. Have some consideration for the people around you from time to time, and take the time to ponder how your actions might affect them, positively or negatively.
In other words, be a responsible adult—which, so far as I can tell, civilian Hummer owners simply aren’t, and I find that irks me. I’m not about to call for the abolition of Hummer ownership or anything like that: everyone has the freedom to display their short-sighted wastefulness and arrogance as much as they like. I just wish we (as a whole) were a little more grown-up than that.
And don’t even get me started on people who own more than one Hummer, let alone five.
So that’s why I said what I said, and why I’ve been careful to make it clear that I’m talking about civilians who drive Hummers (not all SUVs, although I think some of them are excessive as well). They’re incredibly useful vehicles for the military, forest rangers, and other people who have to go where there are no roads and not much in the way of flat terrain. It’s the people who think they need a forty-ton vehicle to pick up a double latté at the Starbucks down the street who could use a good whack with a clue-by-four.
My views on the relationship betwen the individual and society also explain why I have little patience for Americans who complain about the cost of gasoline and our income tax rates, and even less patience for people who think the way to revive an economy is through reduced federal taxation and increased federal spending. Pick one or the other, chief. Otherwise you end up with debts large enough to, you know, crush an economy.