We’re getting tired of all this social sharing crap. And, while we’re at it, we’re also fed up with the growing number of unqualified numbskulls being issued drivers’ licenses because modern vehicles practically drive themselves. These digital nannies and vacuous sharing activities are ruining everything. It’s time we took a step back. It’s time we traded global-digital for local-analog.
Or is it?
I was thinking about Derek Kreindler’s charge to take a step back, don the rose-tinted glasses, drive old cars, and refocus our gaze more locally over on The Truth About Cars. We’re sick of all this sharing. We’re astounded how many would so willingly relinquish personal freedom tomorrow for simple convenience today.
Clearly, the subject touches a nerve and resonates, but why? Is the solution really to withdraw into antiquity? How far back do we go? And will today’s shortcomings fade from view in another 20 years? Did anyone have similar complaints when new models no longer required a riding mechanic to squirt oil onto exposed valvetrains? It seems there was at least a little resistance to seatbelt laws back in the day, too.
Is this really the future of the automobile?
We’ve already seen how old cars are capturing the hearts and minds of our youth more than any of the shiny new stuff on dealer lots. Might there be a new avenue for bringing old cars back to new? How would a car with the retro cachet of something old, combined with a modern refresh from the factory do in today’s world? Yes, it will certainly disrupt the current model of pumping and dumping inventory and making it sell, but a two-fold pushback, against conformist, boring new cars and their monitoring devices, revive the radical, reactionary idea of the automobile as one’s ticket to freedom.
Last year, I wrote about some ideas I had along these lines; ways OEMs and brands might build stronger, lasting relationships with their customers by doing more to serve existing owners than tricking them into buying expensive new models they don’t really need. By all means, continue getting people into brand new models, but step up and be a hometown hero by helping neighbors get into 5, 10, 15 year old versions of what’s on the lot – and helping them keep them running their best.
Synchros of the Mind
We are genetically programmed to make sense of our surroundings and move on. Our brains seek to understand all that we take in, sorting and filing data in accordance with our belief systems. Over time, the amount of stuff we’ve come to “understand” (it’s a uniquely individual function) grows and that which does not align with our preconceptions sparks cognitive dissonance. Think of it like bad synchros. You can still use the gear, but it’s not a pleasant process.
We might fancy ourselves rational and open-minded, but our minds are electrical, and we all know electricity follows the path of least resistance. Is it easier for us to discount something as wrong – or to forge new synaptic conduits and update our records?
The Problem Isn’t
The problem isn’t the sharing. It’s not the technology. The problem is our natural resistance to change and fear of the unknown. I remember hating how old people always seemed bitter and pointless when I was younger. I remember the old bastard down the street who would spray us with the hose for riding our bikes down “his” sidewalk. And today, I struggle with remembering not everyone with a flat-brim hat, black socks, and “Metal Mullisha” sticker in the back window of their vehicles isn’t a blithering idiot, oblivious to their being spoon-fed indentured servitude by the corporate marketing machine.
These are my own, personal demons. I know I was probably an irritating little shit in the eyes of that old man with the garden hose. I know my stereotyping the black sock crowd alienates me from countless exceptional people who will go on to do amazing things making the world a measurably better place than I will. I struggle with the ways my brain naturally takes the easy way out when it encounters square pegs that don’t fit through easy, round holes.
Jobs we hate. Shit we don’t need. And Conspiracy Theories.
We know all the platforms making it so easy for us to connect and share with each other all over the world are only doing so to sell more advertising to corporations that want us to buy more disposable shit we don’t need. We know the things we own end up owning us, forcing us to pursue work based on pay over work that means something to us.
Each modern convenience added to new cars and trucks making it easier for us get from point A to point B can eventually be used to grant control over us to the highest bidders. Not to engage in conspiracy theory, here, but if OnStar can let you into your car, they can also probably keep you out, too. As Derek mentioned in his TTAC piece, there’s even legislation already being proposed which would tax drivers by the mile.
The irony, then, is both our social networks and our vehicles are capable of providing AND limiting our freedom. The more we share online, the more easily we are tracked, but we also gain access to the world like never before, which means we enjoy unprecedented opportunity to be more free than any people in human history. The more technology goes into our new vehicles, the more likely they are to get us where we want to go faster, on less fuel, and more comfortably.
We can stop sharing online and we can stop buying new cars. We can withdraw into the local analog. It certainly sounds appealing when we’re surrounded by commercial billboards, stuck in traffic because some asshat vehicle operator (notice I didn’t say driver) with no business behind the wheel caused a big accident on our way home from work. In doing so, though, we lose the global perspectives that make our generations so much more open to new people and new ideas. Think about it. Most of our parents and grandparents knew only what their parents and neighbors (and the radio and the church) told them about the rest of the world. They lived through two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam.
Previous generations grew up distrustful of anyone who was different or foreign. Our generation isn’t immune, but we’ve grown up online, making friends all over the world. Sure, we have differences, but if we can speak the same language – the language of automotive performance – we don’t seem all that different. In fact, a lot of times, it actually makes the differences we do have seem exciting.
Freedom Requires Purpose
Old cars represent freedom. They represent exploration. Technology represents the same thing. To withdraw into the cold, dark night is less revolutionary and more preservation of the sort of command and control thinking that got us here. Those who cannot trust cannot be trusted.
Sharing is not the problem. Sharing vacuous banality of a life without purpose is.
Technology is not the problem. Technology used promote sloth to free up time for consumption is.
Explore the rest of the world. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
[And, just in case you’re not familiar with the Friendface references in this piece. Click here.]
- How has being online made your life better?
- How can we preserve our freedom behind the wheel?