Friday, June 24, 2005

Like nothing else 

Nick, in a recent entry on CO, wrote the following.

>The last shows a new SUV, the Hummer. It's huge,
>battleship grey, and has tiny windows. It looks like
>nothing so much as a tank. It strikes me that it's the
>wintry polar opposite of the AMC Pacer, the 70s American
> compact car which resembled a futuristic bubble of glass,
> open to the world around it. "You don't need to see out
> of me," the 2005 Hummer seems to say, "just crush
>everything in your path".

My current research at Tokyo U of Art has me spending a lot of time reading about various modes of transportation, especially in relation to war. So something that I read recently came to mind...it might be of interest to note something that Paul Virilio wrote back in 1977 in his book "Speed and Politics" on the type of military vehicles that pre-dated the hummer. I'll quote at lenght from the chapter "Essay on Dromology":

Speed is the hope of the West; it is speed that supports the armies' morale. What "makes war convenient" is transportation, and the armored car, able to go over every kind of terrain, erases the obstacles. With it, earth no longer exists. Rather than calling it an "all-terrain" vehicle, they should call it "sans-terrain"--it climbs embankments, runs over trees, paddles through the mud, rips out shrubs and pieces of wall on its way, breaks down doors. It escapes the old linear trajectory of the road or the railway. It offers a whole new geometry to speed, to violence. It is already no longer simple an auto-mobile, but also a projectile and a launcher, while waiting to become a radio transmitter as well; it hurls both projectiles and itself. With it, once more, Death kills Death, since it victoriously opposes the fearsome German machine gun. Captain de Poix has a prophetic vision of a battlefield literally covered by the mass of these automotive forces. After leaving the street, the military proletariat loses contact with the road. From now on, anything can become a probably trajectory of its Assult. The battlefield has become like the naval glacis, without obstacles, entirely run by the rapid engines, the "battleships of the earth."

And it might be useful to borrow his phrase "the military proletariat" and, with a twist, update it to cover the need to have such a vehicle as one's personal mode of transportation: The "consumptively militarized American proletariat"

A CO reader commented on Nick's post:

>but the new hummers are just fascimiles, hummer-shaped cars that have all
>the gas-milage disadvantages of a regular hummer without being able to
>survive a missile blast.

In an act of nationwide psychological denial, the citizens of America who might purchace such a vehicle, living in a country that has recenty secured its "position" as a "possessor" of Iraqi oil in an effort to be in a pole position at the onset of the coming energy/oil crisis, have decided to splurge...to forget. If America as the prodigal son returns to his senses, can the fatted calf of this kind of consumerism be slain?

And echoes of this can be found in the most unlikely places. In the upscale Setagaya ward, Tokyo Japan, there is, in total, what amounts to a small fleet of these vehicles being driven on roads almost too narrow for two normal cars to comfortably pass each other, by nouveau riche Japanese, in an embarrassing effort to flaunt their ability to spend their disposable income on the raw excess of spatial redundancy, an indulgance which is, regrettably, its very own raison d'etre. The only way that this socio-economic class can find to express itself in the backdrop of a country in which space is at a premium is to rebel against the tendancy of hyper-miniaturization, and consciously select hyper-maximization.

Hummer. As the webpage states, it is "Like nothing else"...at least we can thank Allah for that singularity!

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