What’s in your status symbol?
That’s right. I actually saw a Hummer pulling a trailer with stuff in it yesterday. Although stunned, I recovered in time to get a shot of his trailer as he pulled away from the transfer station. Coincidentally, I was also pulling a trailer on my bike (also visible in the lower right hand corner). We smirked at one another as we passed. I think it’s adorable how he painted is little red wagon to match his big red Hummer.
Hummers are a joke in some circles and a huge badge of honor in others. Not long ago, while I was over in Kirkland, which is a wealthy suburb of Seattle, I counted eight or so Hummers in the span of half an hour. In Seattle, just on the other side of Lake Washington, you could easily count that many Priuses in that time frame.
I make fun of this guy only because that is one way we establish status symbols. Each monkey troop tries to build a case as to why their symbols or values are better, just as car ads constantly try to do. Although not conscious of the act, this guy is advertising the fact that he makes enough money to drop $50K on a worthless vehicle (or less impressively, at least make the monthly payments on one). By riding a bike with a trailer I am advertising other things (what, I’m not sure).
Personally, I think dropping that kind of money on a Hummer indicates shallowness of thought. But, which one of us will get all the chicks? Do chicks really care? Do red Hummers attract shallow chicks? Never mind that I am happily married with children, the programming is still there because we are by our nature serially monogamous social primates.
Not many of us consciously realize why we dress nice, comb our hair, and strive in general to keep our homes clean and maintained. But if you pay attention, you will notice a loop playing in the back of your mind as you leap into other people’s minds:
“Wow, your kitchen is beautiful.”
“Why, thank you. We designed it ourselves.”
“And your yard and organic garden are so well maintained. Where do you find the time and energy?”
“Ah, it’s nothing really, all in a day’s work.”
It’s natural. It is the way we have evolved. Like walking upright, we have little choice in the matter. Ultimately, for whatever reasons, our genes build brains that dump happy juice when we think we have scored. People will practically kill themselves for status. They will climb mountains, base jump, race motorcycles, run marathons, and work endless hours in a cubicle, you name it. However, we do have the choice to promote and choose more environmentally benign symbols, be they material possessions or lifestyles.