Sunday, February 18, 2007

FUH2: The Story of Anti-Hummer Road Rage Retribution

Over the past year, I have taken to the simple and self-satisfying habit of flipping off any H1s or H2s that I see on the road. This was inspired by the site, a collection of submitted photos of other Hummer-haters demonstrating their disdain for these vehicles. To many environmentally conscious people, myself included, the H2 in particular is a symbol of the excessive American consumption, waste, inconsideration and obliviousness that has lead to our current climate crisis and contributes to injustices around the world. This may sound like rhetoric or an overly-dramatic representation, but this is the utmost truth. H2s get 9-13mpg, comparable to shipping trucks and light duty construction equipment, that is, half (yes, 50%) of the abysmal U.S. average of 21mpg (2006 EPA data). They are poorly designed to fit on our highways, our parking lots, and have less storage and seating capacity than the average crossover vehicle or minivan. The worst part is, they are most often driven in the city by one person and rarely, if ever, do any type of the towing or off-road functions that it was purportedly designed for. H2s also carry an childish, introverted "machismo" with them. GM's latest ad campaigns with "get your girl on" or "reclaim your manhood" appeal perfectly to the short-sighted, selfish, wasteful, immature Americans with self-confidence issues and superiority complexes that actually would purchase these monstrosities.
The point of this post, however, is to describe my latest experience caused by my FUH2 philosophy. My wife and I drove down to L.A. this weekend on a mission - she went to a meeting for a master's program, we saw some family, and we picked up a few diesel engines that will allow us to convert our '87 VW Syncro Westfalia campervan (Sally is her name) to biodiesel/vegetable oil!
As we drove, we saw a ridiculous number of L.A.-style Hummers and my finger was getting tired. While one was passing us, I lifted my weary finger, managing a bored and nonchalant flip through the window. He saw this, and with an angered, maniacal gleam in his eye, slammed on his brakes and swerved into our lane, forcing us (a borrowed Jeep Cherokee towing a trailer with 2 engines in it) to maneuver to avoid him! Luckily we didn't get injured, but it made me think.
I said, "Self?" (because that's what I call me) "Self, why do you feel a need to flip off hummers? What does it accomplish?"
I have always felt a little bad about it, I mean, although the middle finger has many meanings, at its worst, it is a pretty solid symbol of disdain, anger, and hostility. Not a very Zen thing to be waving about town. However, in the back of my mind, besides giving me some self-satisfaction, I had hoped that if Hummer drivers get flipped off enough, they might think, "why is everyone so mad at me?" "Maybe this choice of vehicles is inappropriate considering our current climate and energy crises, maybe I should get another car?"
The experience of being nearly killed by an enraged, irresponsible, self-absorbed, hyperconsumer with no accountability showed me that this is likely not to be the case. The mindset of someone who actually thinks that it is a good idea to buy a Hummer, that it makes them more powerful, gives them status, makes other people envious, etc, would not allow for a realization of this magnitude. They are much too self-absorbed. Here's but one of many examples of an comment battle between Hummer and anti-Hummer fans - notice the lack of grammar, insight and overall intelligence reflected in the pro-Hummer postings. Very telling.
"But Clint," you say, "If flipping Hummers off won't save the world, what will? What do we do about this terrible overconsumption?"
Well in an ideal world everyone would get over their complexes, selfishness, and greed, and do whatever they can to help in stopping and reversing our current global crisis. People would simply "Do the right thing" and cut back their consumption. This can start with simple but significant things like selling your Hummer, replacing your bulbs with CFCs and maybe even buying some solar panels with the money you made off your H2. The effort can then continue to improve from there in small, inexpensive steps. Unfortunately, our society has much too much invested in purchasing, commerce, ego, and money. It has lost interest in civility, honesty, and respect for their fellow human. If we cannot entrust the future of the entirety of human civilization to the "Individual American"; asking them to make the "right choice", starting simply by conserving energy, minimizing your carbon footprint, and curbing your wreckless consumerism, then to whom can we turn?
If the "Individual American" can't be trusted to make the right choice, then we need to initiate a tax, a monetary disadvantage, or a compensatory payment that will counteract the desire and ability to own a Hummer or other similar mechanical behemoth. What can be initiated politically is the formation of a "Luxury Vehicle CO2 Tax". Basically anyone driving a vehicle that gets less than 25mpg or so and can't show that that vehicle is legitimately used for their profession (ie. farmers, contractors and the like) need to pay the true costs of their vehicle choices. In order to affect the market, this would have to be on the order of $2000-$5000/year of the life of the vehicle. The money generated can go directly to CO2 offsets for the calculated emissions for the year and the remainder can fund alternative energy products. Everybody wins! Also, our government needs to remember that since it is expected and reasonable to place laws to stop people from hurting other people, it can also place laws to stop corporations from hurting people. We cannot allow auto manufacturers to sue the state for limiting emissions and increasing mileage requirements. These companies cite unfair profit loss and unfair competition from foreign manufacturers (who have been meeting the proposed standards for years!) as a reason to halt government action that is intended to protect the average American. The corporations should not be seen as having the same and sometimes more rights as the American citizen.
Any takers in congress that aren't in the oil companies or auto manufacturer's pockets?

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Blogger Gavin W. said...

People are just plain ignorant right now. I say keep up the good work (at least keep those middle fingers up!)

Or just avoid ever seeing the people and try a little citizne justice! Just deflate their tires at night, or leave angry notes on their cars, or syphon out all their gas. All would be good forms of direct action.

I think sitting complacently by and watching the ignorant and bull-headed destroy our planet is more unjust than any direct action could ever amount.

Think back to the people sitting complacently while we killed the native americans or enslaved the africans, don't be those people...

11:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't encourage the middle finger, Gavin! It's like screaming crudely at some one who is oblivious.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ps: that was me, Laura. It was a scary moment in our travels.

12:25 PM  
Blogger Gavin W. said...

politeness won't stop the revolution Laura!

I hope you can see this middle finger cause I'm doing it as hard as I can!!

1:55 PM  

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