Thursday, May 25, 2006

68. There's no humor in Hummer

From a social and ethical standpoint, the decision was long overdue. Of course, it was not made from the social or ethical standpoint, rather, as always, it was an economic decision. Hummers (H1), the oversized, gas-guzzling symbol of American greed and materialism, have finally been discontinued by General Motors due to poor sales. General Motors will, however, continue to make the similar, but smaller, H2 and H3 models. The last Hummers are scheduled to roll off the lines in June, 2006.

Hummers (with this term, I am referring specifically to the H1), weighs up to 8500 pounds, gets an estimated 10 miles per gallon and cost between $120,000 and $140,000. The weight of this vehicle brings forth two, not so insignificant, issues. First, it is not subject to fuel economy regulations, which is why it is only estimated. Secondly, its weight fell, until recently, into a tax loophole that allowed purchasers to deduct a considerable amount of its cost. The tax regulation was originally created to offer a break to farmers and small businesses that relied on large and expensive capital purchases. I guess, not so surprisingly, Hummer owners quickly took advantage of this loophole, one that was never intended for their benefit.

A commercial, by Volkswagen I believe, takes issue at the purchase of expensive vehicles, specifically, the reasons why individuals may do so. From a megaphone, individuals cite things like: their relationships with their parents, the need to flaunt their wealth, the desperation for attention and the compensation for personal shortcomings. Whether or not any or all of these factors actually play a role in such a purchase, people believe that they do- at least satirically.

Of course, the most common retaliation by Hummer owners is that others are jealous, or in envy, of their ability to purchase and own such a vehicle. This argument certainly holds true for some, but even upon considerable wealth, I would never purchase such a vehicle. Neither would a lot of people. It seems that those susceptible to such gluttony cannot see value in this world past wealth and power. In fact, when I see a Hummer on the road, I think quite opposite. I think of the selfishness necessary to waste the world's most precious resources. And I sorrow for their materialistic values.

Some might view these opinions both unfair and without standing. However, whether we want to admit it or not, we are all judged on the decisions we make. I often hear that we do not have the right to judge another person. The truth is that judging, or forming the opinions about other people, is a part of life. The only thing that people can ask, or that I would ask, is to be judged fairly.

How fair is it to judge, or form an opinion of, a Hummer owner? From my perspective, perfectly fair, because owning one of these vehicles says a lot about the inherent values of its owner. While a Hummer owner might be ignorant to these facts, the more likely scenario is that he or she just does not care. Generally, the affluence necessary to make such a purchase encapsulates some worldly knowledge. The choice, is a conscience one, and a display of arrogance in respect to the generally agreed upon social faults of these vehicles.

As a social criticism, the denigration is justified based on the impact these vehicles make environmentally- and there is no one else to hold accountable other than the purchasers (and perhaps the legislators.) Consider if the Hummer had been even more successful. What would have been the consequences; how would it have affected the supply and demand (and price) of gasoline? America already dwarfs the rest of the world in energy use per person. Imagine if everyone in America drove a Hummer. Fortunately, many potential purchasers were short of means, if not ego.

General Motors marketed and sold Hummers for fourteen years, selling nearly 12,000 of them. For me, that was fourteen years and 12,000 Hummers too many. I am sure that I am not the first, or the last, to say, "Good riddance!"

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