I suppose this should not have shocked me, but it did. Fewer teens are learning to drive, and are finding that the internet can take them most of the places they want to go.
My assumption, as I listened to the radio bit, was that I myself would by an infinite margin choose the automobile over internet access. But on further reflection, I believe I only imagined that to be the case because it has been so long since I have really gone without internet access that I can hardly imagine it. What I now think is that both the automobile and internet access are indispensible for modern life, and that I really would not wish to do without either. With this in mind asking someone whether he'd sooner go without a car or internet access is a bit like asking which he'd rather go without, water or fire. I mean, ideally you "need" both of them. One doesn't replace the other; they do different things.
Still, this shift away from getting one's driver's license at the earliest moment possible is something I cannot relate to in any way. This is because I think of automobiles as creatures of such majesty (well, okay, only the older ones) that I cannot imagine not wanting to get behind the wheel as soon as possible!
To be sure, internet access now affords one the sort of freedom that driving did back in the day. This sort of freedom is a major theme in Flannery O'Connor's brilliant novel Wise Blood.
Consider this exchange from John Huston's film version of Wise Blood:
Hazel Motes: I don't remember this here interstate. Weren't nothin' but a dirt road once.The automobile allowed one to move outside of the restrictively small world in which one was raised. The internet now does this to an even greater degree. In fact, it seems not at all unnatural to reword Hazel's most famous dictum (Nobody with a good car needs to be justified.) in modern terms as:
Truck Driver: I t ain't been here about a year. Just long enough for everybody to drive off on it. There ain't practical ly nobody left i n Eastrod or Melsy. They al I done took out for the city.
Nobody with a good internet connection needs to be justified.I began to think about all that the internet and easily available personal computers have done for us. We can use it to order a pizza delivered to our front door. It can bring us an infinite variety of beautiful images with only tiny motions of our fingertips. With careful use, the internet can make us wise. And aren't these the things we've always wanted?
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Genesis 3:6)I'm not trying to say that the internet is sin, but rather to explain why today's teens might prefer it to the glory that is the automobile.
I do think that to some degree, the automobile has been and will continue to be marginalized by the PC and the internet. It is, after all, "old tech", originating over 100 years ago. But what I hope is that as people stop customizing, adoring, loving, and driving their cars, the folks who do continue to be "car people" will band together and do this with ever greater passion.
As I blogged way back here:
As I say, I will leave that for you to ponder, because I have weightier matters on my mind. I mean hot rods! As with Prohibition, government constraints on auto manufacturers (I know, I work for one) have forced them more and more to produce bland, overly-safe, overly-quiet, transportation appliances ... the very opposite thing of what a hot rod has always been. As the new, draconian CAFE standards come into effect there will be, to the minds of many, no new cars worth owning or driving.
And this is where the Old School (a.k.a., Ol' Skool) rodder will begin to shine. Because the need for hot rods, the glory of hot rods ... these are things that will not be denied. If Chesterton's cocktail theory is accurate, increasing government restrictions will only make the fires of automotive love burn hotter in the hearts of customizers and hot rod fabricators. And I believe that you can already see this happening. Behold, the impractical, loud, danger-defying creature that is Aaron Grote's Atomic Punk.