Sanctimonious Vandalism

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A few months ago, I blogged an incident in which numerous people took a Craig's List advertisement as sufficient excuse to steal property from and vandalize a house.

Today, I have read about an incident which is even worse in some respects -- the open and widespread approval by his neighbors of the destruction of a man's new vehicle by environmentalist vandals:

On a narrow, leafy street in Northwest Washington, where Prius hybrid cars and Volvos are the norm, one man bought a flashy gray Hummer that was too massive to fit in his garage.

So he parked the seven-foot-tall behemoth on the street in front of his house and smiled politely when his eco-friendly neighbors looked on in disapproval at his "dream car."

It lasted five days on the street before two masked men took a bat to every window, a knife to each 38-inch tire and scratched into the body: "FOR THE ENVIRON."


[A]s [Gareth] Groves ponders what to do with the remains of his $38,000 SUV, he has been the target of a number of people who have driven by the crime scene in his upscale neighborhood and glared at him in smug satisfaction. [link dropped]
It is little wonder that followers of a movement that damns man for the sin of exercising his natural ability to alter the environment would have so little concern for something integral to someone's ability to do so, namely the protection of his property rights. Fortunately, a few embers of the Enlightenment still glow: at least one Greenish neighbor who disapproved of the Hummer incident was decent enough to be upset by it.

The Craig's List looters, at least, did not take the event of their own barbarity as an occasion for moral preening. In that respect, at least, they are somewhat more decent than those who sympathized with the ecoterrorists: At least they knew on some level to be ashamed of themselves. And I suspect that somehow, the looters didn't exactly congratulate each other during or after the festivities -- or leer at the victim for days afterwards.

-- CAV


MB said...

It's stories like this that will prevent me from EVER buying a hybrid. Not as though there weren't reason enough already. This just seals it. It also manages to give an added lustre to the decision.

Gus Van Horn said...

That reminds me.... For what it's worth, I hated hybrids and SUV's about equally as fad vehicles before this story. Now, the scales have decisively tipped against hybrids.

Jim May said...

I don't understand why the envirocultists' actions or opinions should make any difference in one's objective evaluation of vehicles, one way or the other.

I have always had a preference for sleek, quiet, efficient hi-tech style over the loud, brutish worship of raw power; that's why I have no use for SUV's.

That was true before I bought my Civic hybrid (previous cars were a Honda CRX, Del Sol, Si Hatchback and then an Honda S2000. Can you tell I'm a Honda guy?), and remains true now. I bought it primarily for the technology/geek factor, not for environmental or cost-of-fuel reasons (it would take years, if ever for gas savings to recoup the purchase premium over a standard Civic.) It is also convenient for me to not need gas every three days (I have an 80-mile daily commute), and I enjoy the the challenge of maximizing mileage without driving like Grandma. I'm getting just under 60mpg right now.

I Agree that they are faddish, right now. So are Crocs. But they are still comfortable shoes (so I hear) - and my hybrid is giving me what I paid for, no more and no less.

BTW: for those who are wondering why I would trade in an S2000 on a hybrid: I didn't. I did something stupid and totalled it. It was a big mistake that could have been so much bigger; I was lucky to hurt only myself and damage no one's property. I decided not to get back into such a car until I'd identified and corrected the bad driving habits that precipitated the crash. So my choices were, boring used sedan... or something different for me to geek out on. If not power -- why not efficiency?

Gus Van Horn said...

You're right that they shouldn't, Jim.

But I wasn't making an objective assessment of either vehicle type (and wouldn't think that mb was, either).

In my case, I have negative mental associations of both kinds of vehicles with the "wisdom of the crowd" mentality, further with poor driving in the case of SUVs and further with leftist cult-ure with hybrids. THIS is the kind of "scale" that got tipped for me yesterday.

But as far as each goes as vehicles, I dislike SUV's for wasting fuel (and thus, potentially my money) and hybrids for being more expensive than the fuel they are supposed to save me.

These objections are enough to make me not want one of these for myself, but would not cause me to think less of someone else for buying such a vehicle (except in the case of someone doing so out of global warming hysteria).

Jim May said...

I see what you mean now. I too dislike SUV's for the reasons you cite; "bovine" is the term I use to describe how they are usually driven, especially here in L.A.

I can empathize with your comment on "negative associations" also, but in regard to something else: for me, it's cigarette smoking.

To me, cigarettes signify conformity, pathetic second-hander mentality. This is due in part to my youthful disdain for cigarettes, but mainly because of their association with the "cool" kids in high school who made my life there quite miserable. That association remains strong enough to this day (thanks to the fact that cigarette-smoking teenagers are still the same -- second-handers) that it was the first aspect I noticed in Damon-A. H. Denys' "October Eve". My initial, mildly shocked reaction was: why did Damon choose an empty-headed teenager for a subject? I knew that Damon hadn't gone off the rails or anything; I saw the dollar sign on the cigarette -- but my distaste for tenage smokers makes it difficult for me to appreciate the painting.

Gus Van Horn said...

Everyone is going to have optional values they don't pursue due to such reasons.

In my case, one is country music. I know it's musically superior to a lot of what's out there and the some of the dances that go with it are easier than a lot of salsa and swing, but ... I just can't get past the very strong mental associations I have between that kind of music and the idiot rednecks I sometimes encountered in Mississippi as I grew up.

As soon as I hear country music, trailer trash, anti-intellectualism, bullying as a substitute for being a real man, and all manner of other deficiencies of character and social pathologies immediately come to mind in terms more real than the abstract. I won't listen to rap unless desperate from boredom and I'd take it over country any time.

Country music -- like what one drives and (to a point) whether one smokes -- is an optional value. I don't see a reason to look down on anyone for choosing it, but it will be a cold day in hell before I choose it for myself.

Inspector said...

Give me "the loud, brutish worship of raw power" any day of the week. I drive a muscle car and the exhaust is not stock.


No offense to Jim, I hope, but I think a hybrid that doesn't save enough gas to make up the cost over the regular version is dumb and not "smart."

Now practicality is, I think, no more a part of Geek Thinking than it is for people like me who build ground-shaking beasts. And I can fully understand and respect if, in pursuit of some Geeky goal, a car was rendered impractical. Still, I do think it's over the line if it fails at the very thing its Geekiness is attempting to achieve.

That particular bit represents a fault in Geek Thinking that frustrates me to no end. It's the same kind of thinking that enables ricer math. The bottom line is that if you pursue an abstract number (i.e. MPG or HP/L) while losing sight of the actual, practical goal (i.e. saving money or making the car go fast), then what you do is an epistemic failure - not worthy of respect.

It would be like me building a 1000 HP muscle car that - because its powerband was so narrow and peaky - would get its butt handed to it on a platter by 500 HP cars.

That's why I'm glad to see that Jim is able to get some other convenience - not having to fill up often and not having to drive like Grandma - out of it.

Hmm... I think I see a post in here somewhere.

Adrian Hester said...

Yo, Gus, you write: "As soon as I hear country music, trailer trash, anti-intellectualism, bullying as a substitute for being a real man, and all manner of other deficiencies of character and social pathologies immediately come to mind in terms more real than the abstract." My first response is it's a good thing you didn't grow up around some of the ganja-smoking hippie types I've run into, or you'd probably have had a damned hard time liking Jamaican music. Fortunately, I hadn't run into too many of them either, though I was acquainted with enough of them in college that I had an unfair mental block against Bob Marley and Company before I ever really listened to them. As it is, while I'm not a fan of ganja and especially not a fan of leftie Yank ganja-heads, that doesn't carry over to Jamaican music, even when it's saturated with ganja smoke. The cultural connotations are just too different, and the music's just too good. More generally, the whole Rasta-Jah-ganja bundle is something I didn't have to define myself against while growing up; since I started listening to the music well after my late teens, it's the sort of thing I can appreciate without having to eradicate its roots in my own history, if you will.

And there's where country music's different, or more precisely country music from the mid-60s or so on, and especially the 70s and 80s, which makes my ears vomit. (Can't help quoting, of all things, The Blues Brothers: "Oh, we play both kinds of music--country and western." It's funny in the abstract but deadening to the spirit when you're growing up.) Country swing I like a lot, for example, and rockabilly, bluegrass (instrumental only--gimme Bill Monroe's picking any day but please don't make me listen to most of his lyrics!), and some country rock from the early 70s (which was the most listenable stream of top-40 pop from the time, though still much less fun than Motown). There are a few modern country singers who strive for that older sound, like Lyle Lovett, and them I like a lot. (And Mary Chapin Carpenter, though I think you could make a strong case that since she seems to have come to country from folk, she doesn't have the full country spirit, and thank goodness for that.) Of all the singers from the benighted era, I like Johnny Cash and can stand Johnny Paycheck in his funnier moments and a handful of others' songs, but the rest is a fetid swamp in my eyes. (And I abhor and abominate C&W steel guitars.) And again, I'm glad I didn't start listening to the blues, the real stuff, until I was well past my teens. At least there is one back-handed benefit to such an experience--when you grow up disgusted by Barry Manilow, B.J. Thomas, Neil Diamond, David Gates and Bread, Rupert Holmes, The Carpenters, and the rest of that crowd, there's little of musical value and no real artistic value in the stuff that repels you.

"I won't listen to rap unless desperate from boredom and I'd take it over country any time." Well, I might take it over country 97% of the time, though I'd prefer not to be in such desperate straits in the first place. But it all depends on the singers.

Jim May said...

Hey, Inspector, don't get me wrong, I can and do appreciate big iron too. Tonight is Cruise Night in Glendale CA, and the GF and I will be going for the third year in a row ;)

My problem there is less the "big" part, and more the "loud" part. Big dogs, bikes, trucks, booming car stereos -- I can appreciate them all for their own merits, but too often they belong to obnoxious jackasses who use them as a form of low-grade aggression just to piss people off.

Oh, and by the way, hybrids *can* pay off under certain circumstances, which I happen to have at this point -- high annual mileage (I'm averaging 20k per annum so far, and my commute just got longer) and gas over $3 a gallon. By my rough calculations, it will break even right around 2010 or so. Being a Honda, it *will* last that long. Last but not least, long road trips -- which I love -- get pretty economical too, and with 600 miles per tank, I'll need more frequent stops than the car does ;)

Gus Van Horn said...


Your comment does remind me of one thing WRT country-related music. I do really enjoy bluegrass, which I sometimes will listen to at Hickory Hollow. It's different enough from what I know as to not raise mental block on my part.

Inspector and Jim,

I do have to stand up and be counted as a huge fan of Hondas.

As the commercial says, "Isn't nice when things just ... work?"


Inspector said...


I don't get you wrong. I'm commenting more on the thing in general. And musing out loud a bit. Nothing against your choice given what you use it for. As I said, I'm glad it works out for you.

Oh, but your hybrid doesn't help at all on the highway. Well, given the gridlock of California, maybe it helps on your highway. But I was speaking to your "road trip" comment. It's just dead weight on highway cruises.

I'm not off on the Honda thing. I'm just saying that from a practicality standpoint (i.e. cost), a regular civic is a better deal. The hybrid is just a toy. Which, as such, I don't have a problem with (being a muscle car guy and all); but it's a toy that mostly fails at its own purpose. It would be like me buying a slow, ugly muscle car; (a 1973 Chevelle comes to mind) the point is kind of wasted.


There's only been one kind of music, as far as I know, that I just plain cannot stand: EASY LISTENING. You know, dentist office jazz. I have too deep an association of that music with terminal boredom. It actually gets me angry listening to it, to the point where I must leave or insist it be turned off. No other music does that to me. Not rap, not country, not even that Mexican Polka stuff.

(Actually, I can even enjoy rap and country to a point. Mostly when it is not opining about Hoes or Jesus respectively)

Inspector said...


I had posted up another reply here... at least, I think I did. Did blogger eat it?

Gus Van Horn said...

Here it is.

Google/Blogger will sometimes duplicate comments for no apparent reason. Skimming through that, poorly as it turns out, I thought your comment was a duplicate and didn't hit the "publish" button.

My apologies.