Monday, June 14, 2010

THE REAL OBSCENITY


Pulling up behind a line of cars stopped at a red light yesterday, I couldn't help but be confronted with the reality that the car in front of me was a Hummer—it's rear end filling the windshield of my little Prius. I felt the usual disgust I've felt since the first time I saw a Hummer when Arnold Schwarzenegger, who lived in my Santa Monica neighborhood at the time, first introduced them to the world as a civilian vehicle.

I looked away to avoid my anger, out the driver's side window and there was a line of cars coming in the other direction from making a turn onto the street I was still stopped at the red light on. And for the first time in my life I felt a sense of disgust, almost nausea, at these cars as well, and then even at my own. It was like the first time I saw someone smoking a cigarette and it no longer looked glamorous or cool or any of the ways it had looked in Bogart and Bacall movies but instead just looked wrong.

Or like when I eat some heart congesting food I know isn't good for me and then wash the plate and watch grease or fat go down the drain so slowly I realize it's probably clogging it up—and doing the same thing to my arteries. I don't mean to sound self-righteous or holier-than-thou or any of that, but since the Gulf oil infusion just looking at people sticking fuel hoses from gas pumps into their cars is upsetting, like I'm witnessing some kind of mechanical rape. And the whole idea of using all the gas we do seems literally obscene, not like a metaphor or analogy, but truly, obviously, obscene.

6 comments:

Elisabeth said...

One of my daughters was horrified the other evening when her partner took her to his school formal along with a number of other couples in a stretch Hummer. Can you imagine anything worse? And this in Australia.

My daughter was ashamed to get inside but she had little option without ruining the night. But she'd have liked to.

All this to say I commiserate with your angst.

harryn said...

i think for most of us, it almost takes a lifetime to recognize the obscenity - especially after disasters like an oil eruption or when life is threatened by man-made causes; cigarettes, carbon emissions, high-cholesterol foods, cell phones, preemptive wars, deregulation of big business, political corruption, or unscrupulous television programming and advertisement ...
the common denominator always seems to be greed and profit with indoctrination to the status quo through media ...
i know i've succumbed to its influence over the years - and often, still do - but the shame of participating in the obscenity is often greater than the satisfactions derived ...
i don't see a generation of less influenced people arriving - and as my twenty year old son says - "we'll adapt when we have to" ...

Butch in Waukegan said...

The obscenity is much more than just a personal failing.

Sixteen gallons of oil. That's how much the average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes on a daily basis -- either directly, through the use of Humvees, tanks, trucks, and helicopters, or indirectly, by calling in air strikes. Multiply this figure by 162,000 soldiers in Iraq, 24,000 in Afghanistan, and 30,000 in the surrounding region (including sailors aboard U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf) and you arrive at approximately 3.5 million gallons of oil: the daily petroleum tab for U.S. combat operations in the Middle East war zone.

Multiply that daily tab by 365 and you get 1.3 billion gallons: the estimated annual oil expenditure for U.S. combat operations in Southwest Asia. That's greater than the total annual oil usage of Bangladesh, population 150 million -- and yet it's a gross underestimate of the Pentagon's wartime consumption.

TomDispatch [2007 article]


I share your disgust with the Hummer and all it stands for.

whatsamatta13 said...

what's happening in the gulf is a stephen king nightmare

Robert G. Zuckerman said...

What can each of us do individually? Drive less, continue being disgusted, don't buy or eat meat, don't go to movies or watch tv shows with guns and gratuitous violence - as swami babka says: be the change.

Lally said...

E., it's universal pretty much, though the USA is the main culprit when it comes to gluttenous consumption.
Paul, you said it better than I did.
Butch, great point that has been getting made in a lot of places lately (Bill Maher for on) but not in the main media and not enough.
Whatsamatta, worse.
Robert, great suggestions. I notice lately I've been choosing vegetarian alternatives even more than usual and the violent movie and TV I've been avoiding for a long time, for the most part.
The element in all this that keeps getting overlooked for the most part is overpopulation and its impact. It seems with every step taken to reverse some of the worst results of over consumption of almost everything, more people with more demands are added to the world's numbers and it's vack to where we started or even more regressive.