Alienation

Thanks to a distracted teenager and some perfervid cop who thought he had to nail somebody in a busy street regardless of safety I had to take my car in to get the bumper painted, with a complimentary rental from the kid’s parent’s insurance. They were out of the Toyota Yaris, or whatever it was they’d qualified me for, and instead gave me one of the larger Mini Coopers.

Now a Mini used to be a poor and dinky car–see Mr. Bean–but these modern iterations I don’t think are the same. There is something of the left to them, isn’t there? Something smug, pert, self-righteous, of thinly veiled indignation with all that won’t submit. That I could tell, the label Organic was nowhere on it, but I think it qualifies as that sort of object. I was not thrilled.

Anybody who by now has gathered it is going to be a negative review is not going to be disappointed. Well, could be disappointed if said person were to expect me to actually do a review. Here’s my observation: you are not in contact any longer with the mechanical thing a car is in a car like that; you are in contact with a computer. Now I realize that that is increasingly the case with any recent car, but what brought it clearly to my awareness was the fact that my 2007 Ford Focus responds more eagerly to the pressing of the accelerator. No kidding. Not that the Mini didn’t have power, but that I was only dealing with a computer when I pressed the pedal, and it was actually the computer was dealing with the motor. I suggested, it did what it thought best. It was set to be a kind of nanny-state car, taking control from the human and granting it to a pre-programmed committee approved safety regulation.

Which is fine. I won’t be buying one anytime soon because I can only afford less organic vehicles anyway, but talk about alienation. Technology alienates from being, and driving around changes us, has been for years. But at least you could feel something of what you had to work with. Now you hardly even feel that. You have only the colored lights, the artificial padding, the insideness without soul, the soft beeps, the comfort and convenience of being sealed inside of something that is programmed to take care of you. It is programmed to take care of you but it does not care.

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