Sunday, October 20, 2013

I Can Do It Myself!

Dave and I have been car shopping.  We aren't car buying because we can't agree on the specifics of what we're shopping for.   This is the only vehicle we come close to agreeing on:
Nissan Juke
But I only want it if it's Cayenne Red with black leather interior . . . with the red stitching on the seats . . . and the red console . . . and costs less than we paid for our first house.  I don't think that's out of line, but car dealers seem to, so we're still searching.

 The search has confirmed something I've really known for years:  some of the standard features on new cars annoy me.  I'm tired of cars that think they know best. I am an adult, capable of making my own choices.  If I want my doors locked, I will lock them.  If I want my headlights on, I will turn them on.  If I want to wear a seat belt, I will put it on.   And - here's the biggie - I absolutely hate having the radio continue to run after the car is shut off.  I hate that moment when the car noise stops, but the radio continues to blare at what is now, in the absence of car and road noise, a jarring volume.  If I want to listen to the radio, I can do it myself! 

Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for luxury and pampering.  Heated seats are good.  Climate control heating/cooling is a must.  And those cool back-up cameras might have prevented the little fender-bender I had the other day.  But I want to choose when I use these features.  I don't want my car to be in charge. 

More and more, technology seems to be taking over life. I don't have proof, but my personal theory is that it started in the 1950's.
Electric stoves, refrigerators, toasters and kettles revolutionized the kitchen, and vacuum cleaners and washing machines shaved hours off time spent cleaning. Women could enjoy more leisure time while still creating a clean, comfortable home for their families.  -
Of course, you can't stop progress  - or so they say - and the appliances that revolutionized the 1950's have continued to evolve.  Appliance manufacturers continually add features that promise to do more so we can do less.   A microwave - unheard of when we got married - is now a standard kitchen feature.  Dishwashers not only wash our plates and cups, but will now scrub our pots and pans.  Washers include cycles for even our most delicate items - no more hand washing.  But to what end?

Automation and technology are meant to make life easier; to free up more time -- time we can use to go to the gym because, since machines do our work, we aren't getting enough exercise.  We continually increase the physical and mental jobs we hand off to machines.  Calculators have replaced the need to know multiplication tables.  MP3's and iPods have freed us from having to stack records on the stereo or turn the pages of a book.  Cell phones have nearly made watches, calendars, and address books obsolete,  We don't even have to make the effort to remember our best friend's phone number. 

In our cars, automatic transmission makes it unnecessary to shift and clutch.  Radio seek and scan features free us from the strain of turning a knob.  Windows glide down, and out-of-reach rear doors lock with the push of one finger.  These are all convenient and/or helpful ways to make life just a little easier. 

However, we have become so accustomed to our automated lives that physical work seems daunting when we have to do it ourselves. Just suggest to a farmer that he bale his hay in hundreds of small square bales and stack them by hand, rather than in large round bales moved and stacked with a tractor.  Or ask a young lady who has always "Swiffered" her kitchen floor to scrub it on hands and knees.  Baking and sewing are no longer mandatory subjects for high school girls because everything they need is available on a Wal-Mart shelf.  These once-mandatory skills have been changed to "crafts" by the convenience of technology.

The features in new cars that annoy me, however, move beyond convenience.  They think for us - or at least the engineers who design them do.  Locked doors, buckled belts and blaring radios are no longer optional.  Someone, somewhere has decided that their preferences are right for everyone, and I can not be trusted to make my own choices.  I want to yell, "I can do it myself!"  I know, I know - it's just a car radio. It's not life and death.  And you're right - in the end, it probably won't stop me from trading cars.  

But these annoying features are a microcosm of bigger issues; of the growing list of opinions that are forced on me.  The message is clear: "These are the opinions you must hold in order to be an upstanding, clear-headed, politically correct citizen of this world.  All those who disagree are not only wrong, but obviously subordinate."  What about personal choice?  What about open-minded debate?  What about agreeing to disagree at times?  Those things are rare in the 2013 world - largely because our easy lives have made us lazy and apathetic.  Instead of putting out the effort to fight, we watch our glorious nation slide faster and faster down the slippery slope toward the attitudes and oppressions our ancestors have repeatedly gone to war to escape.

Overly dramatic?  I hope so.  But I'm afraid not. It's time to remember that "progress" is meant to make life better, not just less demanding.  It's time to stop accepting the "standard options" just because it's easier than taking a stand.  It's time to stop conforming just because we're too lackadaisical to protest.  It's time to stop taking the easy road and put our country back on the right road.  It's time to stop allowing the government to do for us and say "I can do it myself."

1 comment:

  1. Great thoughts! Thanks again for the wonderfully relaxing weekend!