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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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.

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Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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