Monday, August 28, 2006

The psychopathology of ATVs

From The Twilight of Mechanized Lumpenleisure, by James Howard Kunstler:

The demoralization of the American public, and especially of the economic lower orders proceeded remorselessly from the 1980s on and became focused on two very pernicious ideas: first the belief that it was possible to get something for nothing, and second the belief that when you wish upon a star your dreams come true. ...

Now, the trouble with this kind of demoralizing belief system is that most adult human beings realize at some level that it is at odds with the way the universe works, that it is an edifice of lies -- just as the suburban housing developments were an edifice of lies about an enduring way of life, and a maxed-out collection of credit cards was a lie about one’s personal finances. Their own sensed moral failures aroused in Americans a welter of negative emotion including guilt, shame, unworthiness, powerlessness, terror, and ultimately anger over having to feel these unpleasant emotions, and they expressed their anger by striking out against nature, employing the very machines that defined the terms of their existence, the automobile and its spawn: monster trucks, motorcycles, dune buggies, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, and gigantic motorboats whose chief attractions were their power to negate the scale of the average freshwater lake while making enormous amounts of noise. These were people who no longer felt comfortable, or even ontologically present in the world, unless engines of some kind were ringing in their ears. Their assault on the landscape of America completed the destruction that suburbia had left unfinished. And as the cheap oil, which made the whole exercise possible, fades into history with the global oil production peak upon us, America was reduced to a nation of tattooed, overfed clowns in paramilitary drag, pretending to be powerful and good.