Why are people so interested in vehicles? All around the world, as soon as they have enough money for food, what do people want more than anything? A bicycle, scooter, car, or truck. When they finally have plenty of money, what do they want next? A bigger car, another car, an SUV, and a trailer. If someone is lucky enough to have rivers of cash or credit, what do they buy? A sailboat, snowmobile, jet ski, and a Harley. We want a huge RV with bicycles tied to the back, a boat on the roof, and a tow car behind. We would buy jet planes and helicopters if we could. What is the meaning of this human vehicular obsession?
Vehicles are often the tools of production. You can’t get your vegetables to market without a cart. Likewise, you might need a car to get to work. Okay fine. But that cannot be the whole story. You definitely do not need a kayak and a Hummer for anything. A Corolla will get you to
People will buy vehicles even when they don’t need them, can’t afford them, can’t maintain them, and have nowhere to store them. But even if you are swimming in money, why would you spend it on vehicles? How fast do you expect to go on the freeway at 5pm? When I see the sailboats and fishing boats struggling to avoid hitting each other in the bay, I wonder, “Where is the fun in that?”
Why not buy books or music? You can never have too much of those. If money is overflowing your bank account, why not create a scholarship fund, or support health care for people who would really, really be grateful? There are a hundred things to do with money more useful than buying another vehicle.
There must be a deep psychological reason for vehicular obsession because it makes no rational sense. I think it involves subconscious fantasies of omnipotence, omnipresence, and to a lesser extent, omniscience, for the imaginatively challenged.
If you have an attractive, powerful car, then you are attractive and powerful. If the car is expensive, then you must be rich. If it is shiny, you must have good taste. The vehicle defines a new bodily self better than your run-down, flabby body. Actually, even if your body is in great shape, and you look good, and you are rich, you still can’t go from 0 to 60 in five seconds, can you? So you still need a better physical “shell” to fulfill your fantasy life.
Inside the vehicle we put aside our mortal embodiment and become re-embodied as an anonymous homunculus in a steel and glass superbody. The homunculus issues performance commands, enjoys the scenery whipping by, and imagines the awed respect of onlookers (as if anybody really cared how you spend your paycheck).
Other vehicles are seen as people. The person who “cut you off” in traffic is just the red coupe, because you have no idea who is actually in the car. It doesn’t matter. The behavior of the car is the behavior of its driver, just as your car represents your own superpowered body.
Notice that nobody fantasizes about owning a metro bus or an Amtrak train. We’re not interested in possessing public transportation, only personal vehicles. It’s not actually the vehicle we want, no matter how big it is. What we want is a fantasy superbody that can do amazing things.
It is a childish fantasy, like kids who want to be Spiderman, Batman, or Wonder Woman. They can’t think beyond behaving physically in the physical world. Rarely do you hear a child of ten say they would like to become a concert cellist, biologist or novelist. They simply don’t know the range of possibilities that life offers, so all they can think of is running, flying and punching bad guys. Their world view is restricted to the physical.
Vehicular obsessives are that way too. I submit it would be a rare concert cellist, biologist or novelist who drives a Ferrari or owns a sailboat. Why? Because those people have learned to enjoy a life that extends far beyond the physical body.
On the other hand, adults who glorify the physical body and who lack awareness of the depth and extent of intellectual, social, and aesthetic life, would be more likely to suffer vehicular obsession. That crowd would include body builders, dancers, athletes, and people whose mental life is centered around physicality. It would include television and movie actors, models and public figures because they trade in their physical image. The physical is all for them. It would not include radio personalities because only their voice matters so they don’t need a superbody.
If you won the lottery big time, what would you buy? Vehicles?