Millennials, Car Culture, And The Automotive Industry

Millennials, Car Culture, And The Automotive Industry

Are we killing two of America's most beloved institutions?
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As Millennials, we bear the unfortunate stigma of being lazy, entitled, and self-obsessed, among other things. We were all supposedly born with silver spoons in our mouths, rely too much on technology, and have never had to work for anything. Just as past generations have forced these sweeping generalizations upon us, they have already predicted both our social and economic impact on a world we have yet to be fully part of. Specifically, critics have heralded the death of America’s beloved car culture and automotive industry thanks to, you guessed it, Millennials. But is this actually true? And if these institutions are dying, are we responsible?

America has had a long and proud obsession with car culture and the automotive industry. Ever since Henry Ford’s Model Ts first rolled off the assembly lines in 1908, cars have been the topic of conversations, media, songs, and even literature. That’s not to say the Model T was the first American car, but it was certainly the first truly affordable one. Before the Model T and assembly line manufacturing, cars were handcrafted luxuries for the rich, with exuberant price tags and complicated mechanisms that usually required a trained chauffeur. Ford’s assembly line models not only made cars available to the middle class, but also made them immensely popular, and ultimately, cemented both cars and the automotive industry as part of America’s identity.

This sense of identity associated with cars persists to this day. BMW and Toyota Prius owners are notorious for their poor driving and parking, as cited and actually scientifically backed up in this article by the New York Times. Male owners of Hummers and other SUV are believed to be compensating for their lack of masculinity. There’s even a “Grow Your Own Hummer” toy, which supposedly grows up to 600% in size, and you can guess what that’s referencing. Regardless of whatever car you drive, it is certainly a part of your identity, whether that identity is your choice or not.

So what’s the problem? Why are Millennials being blamed for the death of car culture if these identities still exist? Well, there is a lot more to car culture than labeling drivers. Car culture isn’t restricted to the fantasy world of street racing the Fast and Furious franchise portrays either. Car culture is about seeing automobiles as more than just appliances that get you from point A to point B. Personally, I come from a family of car enthusiasts. My paternal grandfather was a car salesman, and would often bring a different car home every week, which enthralled my father and uncles. They would also attend races on the weekends, and car culture became a part of their family bond, just as it did with mine. From an early age, my brother and I were watching races, attending car shows, reading car magazines, and playing racing video games. Car culture wasn’t just an extension of our family bond; it was a foundation of our childhood. On road trips, we wouldn’t play punch buggy, we’d play “name the model, year, and horsepower.” And while car culture itself may not be as popular as it once was, that doesn’t mean it is dying, as another New York Times article claims.

As for the automotive industry, plenty of Millennials drive cars, as seen in the bustling parking lots on campus, so how are we killing it? Well, new trends such as Uber have concerned car manufacturers. But in large cities like New York, you’re much better off taking a cab, relying on public transportation, or even walking than driving. Plus, you cut back on your carbon footprint, which is always a good thing. Also, cars are not always cheap nor a necessarily beneficial investment. While you can own one for almost a third of yearly tuition at Ithaca College, this isn’t always a wise decision. The moment you drive a new car off the dealership’s lot, its value deteriorates. By the time you try to sell it used or for scrap, you’ll be lucky to make a quarter of its original value back. As such, leasing cars and assuming leases are becoming more and more popular. Leasing a car basically means instead of buying it for its sticker price, you “borrow” it for a specific amount of time (sometimes with a down payment), and make monthly payments during that time period. At that end of that time period, you return the car. Not only is this a more affordable option, but also many people are worried about owning a car that they grow to hate for years. As for assuming leases, you can take on the lease payments, and subsequent “borrowing” of the car for someone who wants out of the lease. Either way, car manufacturers will still be able to pump out new products, perhaps in smaller numbers, but they certainly won’t die.

So are Millennials killing car culture and the automotive industry? As a car enthusiast with some knowledge of the industry, I certainly don’t think so. Yes, things are going to change. Electric cars may one day put gas-guzzlers out of circulation, but that’s environmentally for the better. Will I be happy about it? Not necessarily, the thundering roar of a V8 engine and the distinct scents of gasoline and burnt rubber are things I treasure immensely. In fact, I’m a bit upset that the car I’m assuming a lease on next isn’t manual (stick shift). I personally find driving automatic so uninvolving and mind-numbing, as I learned on and prefer manual, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop loving cars. So while car culture and the automotive industry may change, Millennials aren’t going to kill either of these beloved American institutions.

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30 Things I'd Rather Be Than 'Pretty'

Because "pretty" is so overrated.
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Nowadays, we put so much emphasis on our looks. We focus so much on the outside that we forget to really focus on what matters. I was inspired by a list that I found online of "Things I Would Rather Be Called Instead Of Pretty," so I made my own version. Here is a list of things that I would rather be than "pretty."

1. Captivating

I want one glance at me to completely steal your breath away.

2. Magnetic

I want people to feel drawn to me. I want something to be different about me that people recognize at first glance.

3. Raw

I want to be real. Vulnerable. Completely, genuinely myself.

4. Intoxicating

..and I want you addicted.

5. Humble

I want to recognize my abilities, but not be boastful or proud.

6. Exemplary

I want to stand out.

7. Loyal

I want to pride myself on sticking out the storm.

8. Fascinating

I want you to be hanging on every word I say.

9. Empathetic

I want to be able to feel your pain, so that I can help you heal.

10. Vivacious

I want to be the life of the party.

11. Reckless

I want to be crazy. Thrilling. Unpredictable. I want to keep you guessing, keep your heart pounding, and your blood rushing.

12. Philanthropic

I want to give.

13. Philosophical

I want to ask the tough questions that get you thinking about the purpose of our beating hearts.

14. Loving

When my name is spoken, I want my tenderness to come to mind.

15. Quaintrelle

I want my passion to ooze out of me.

16. Belesprit

I want to be quick. Witty. Always on my toes.

17. Conscientious

I want to always be thinking of others.

18. Passionate

...and I want people to know what my passions are.

19. Alluring

I want to be a woman who draws people in.

20. Kind

Simply put, I want to be pleasant and kind.

21. Selcouth

Even if you've known me your whole life, I want strange, yet marvelous. Rare and wondrous.

22. Pierian

From the way I move to the way I speak, I want to be poetic.

23. Esoteric

Do not mistake this. I do not want to be misunderstood. But rather I'd like to keep my circle small and close. I don't want to be an average, everyday person.

24. Authentic

I don't want anyone to ever question whether I am being genuine or telling the truth.

25. Novaturient

..about my own life. I never want to settle for good enough. Instead I always want to seek to make a positive change.

26. Observant

I want to take all of life in.

27. Peart

I want to be honestly in good spirits at all times.

28. Romantic

Sure, I want to be a little old school in this sense.

29. Elysian

I want to give you the same feeling that you get in paradise.

30. Curious

And I never want to stop searching for answers.
Cover Image Credit: Favim

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Listening To Vic Mensa

A social commentary through music.

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In the fall of my junior year, I acquired an aversion to elephants and the color red. The red elephants on my television screen were revolting: come January 2017, an openly sexist, racist bigot—the antithesis of the American spirit—would hold our country's highest office. My calculus homework was long-forgotten on the kitchen table as I sat next to my mother in silence. I envisioned repealed civil liberties for minorities, eradicated universal healthcare, and an ominous wall that separated us from the rest of the world. I felt helpless—but, I was not alone. 2,140 miles away in an Atlanta hotel room, the face of social hip-hop, Vic Mensa, fielded phone calls from his dejected sisters and dealt with his own incurable disgust.

Mensa grew up in Chicago's South Side. His parents (both educators) taught Mensa the importance of politics, literature, and mathematics, while the rest of the South Side exposed Mensa to humanity's unsettling realities: gun violence, drugs, and police brutality. Following the murder of his childhood friend, Mensa decided to create music that inspires political and social change. Mensa writes and performs powerful songs packed with an effective combination of both rhetoric and personal experience. To him, the 2016 Election results were not disheartening; instead, Trump's win only strengthened his vision. "I realized that [Trump] had to happen because we've been pacified by having Barack [Obama] in office. That pacification would have only continued by having Hillary elected," Mensa stated in an interview with CNN the day after the election, "My fight doesn't end here no matter the outcome".

Mensa's debut album, There's a Lot Going On, was released a few months prior to the presidential election. On the seven-part album, track six, "Shades of Blue", is the most politically-charged song included in the collection. The first time that I heard the song during the summer of 2016, I focused solely on the appealing beat and pretty harmonies. I understood the obvious reference to the Flint water crisis; however, I overlooked the lyrics' full significance. Listening to the song post-election was a drastically different experience. As Mensa predicted, Trump's hateful rhetoric and racist remarks pushed social justice issues towards the forefront of my mind. This elevated awareness made me conscious of "Shades of Blue"'s allusions to social justice, and Mensa's intricate lyrical tools reinforced my sense of purpose: taking a firm stance against injustice to spur political change.

As I later discovered in "Shades of Blue", Flint is a segue to other social justice themes. Race, socioeconomic status, government inefficiency, and white-centric media coverage are all problems that are exacerbated by the Flint crisis. Mensa utilizes potent images, the "color of morning pee coming out of the sink" and "lead in the water gun," to highlight the severity and transparency of the crisis. Mensa further articulates his point on race and class disparity by comparing the Flint crisis to a sinking boat: if the boat contained white people, the government would intervene and help; yet, since the boat contains minorities (both racial and socioeconomic), the government will allow it to sink. Mensa's lyrics also explain the government's inability to aid poverty-stricken areas. Our representatives allow inner-city areas to flounder under mounting violence while allowing media sources to emphasize the stagnant stalemate between the U.S. and Russia. Rather than confronting the rising crime rates in places like Mensa's native South Side Chicago, the government chooses to work on "true" American problems like Russia and to leave the "black problem" to fester and deteriorate. For me, these verses highlighted the government's incompetence and failed attempts to provide tangible assistance for specific minority groups which amplified my frustration with the inequality in America.

Trump has forced America to recognize some of its ugliest truths. His supporters no longer have to hide their racist opinions; the enemies are clearly targeted, and the lines have been erased—anything is fair game. For years our nation has suppressed underlying marginalization, and now that these sentiments are public, our generation can identify, confront, and combat racism. I have followed politics from a young age, but Mensa's music inspires myself and my peers to actively participate in politics. With the Trump administration bearing down on valued American institutions, the public must unify and stand as an ally for groups who have been ignored and suppressed throughout history. Our strength and influence is derived from passion, large numbers, and ceaseless agitation. "Change gon' come," Vic Mensa promises in "Shades of Blue", but "it's all on you."

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