Something I was thinking about today as I was running down the one-lane mountain road around the lake, and an SUV hurtled by: SUVs manifest a trend currently going on in the middle to upper class that is further exemplified by their houses. There is this trend of going bigger and more threatening, of creating this steel-reinforced outer shell, erecting fortress tower walls around lives that are supposedly picture perfect yet are in essence nearly psychotic. People buy SUVs not because they plan to go off-roading or because they have a lot of freight to ship around–they buy SUVs because they think it makes them safe, while at the same time still serving as a status symbol. It is a strange combination of waste and fear.
In the neighborhood where I grew up in San Diego, the houses on my street used to be fairly normal wooden structures, one or two stories, with lots of trees and a sizeable back and front yard. As the nouveau rich from other cities came flooding in during the 80s and 90s, they bought up the land and tore down the houses and erected these gigantic 3 storey mansion type edifices that take up every inch of the land and remind me more of fortresses than houses. It really perplexes me as to why they need gigantic rooms, when they could have had a beautiful backyard instead. The only reason I can think of is that they are again satisfying two needs–the urge to show off their wealth, while at the same time demonstrating their fear of other people by the subtly militant architectural style.
You’ve all seen Fahrenheit 911, and remember the scenes where Moore rather comically demonstrates the levels of fear that Americans have of one another. And it’s a catch-22, because this fear feeds into the fact that we grow increasingly more dangerous to each other. But the funny thing is that the danger comes not from serial killers. It comes from children. It comes from parents driving their Hummer SUVs. It comes from frightened people trying to protect themselves from something they can’t even recognize: their own way of life.