Planet Haolewood

A toolbox, a change of underwear, and a surfboard.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bumper Stickers, Changing the World and Tow-in Surfing

Before I moved to Hawaii I lived in Berkeley, California, the world capital of bumper stickers. In most places everyone is entitled to his or her point of view but in Berkeley it’s not enough just to have an opinion. What good is that? You’re not really in the spirit of things unless you distill your opinion into a few (preferably biting) words and paste them to the back of your car. But just one bumper sticker might warrant sideways glances from your neighbors; a true Berkelite couldn’t sleep at night until the whole back of their car forms a mosaic of provocative slogans so complete that a tailgater would have no clue as to the vehicle’s original color. Even those noble urban bicyclists who forgo fossil fuel in favor of pedal power are obliged to cover the frames of their bikes with conciseness raising slogans despite the fact that the only way to read them would be to place your disembodied head in a sort of orbit around the tubular frame.

But it’s hard to keep up. There’s always some new group of oppressed people whose plight really needs to be brought to the attention of those five or six people in town who may not have already heard about it. And the world is changing all the time. “Re-elect Carter” just doesn’t seem to speak to a younger generation. So in the interests of simplifying I have come up with a couple of good bumper sticker slogans that are timeless and general enough to capture the gist of any issue a citizen of Berkeley might want to draw attention to. Consider it my little gift to the city I once called home. I propose that the simple one word statement “Indignant” could replace the whole range of bumper stickers found in Berkeley. But if one statement seems almost TOO concise I’ll supply a few variations to round out the selection.

“More indignant than you” puts a little bit finer of a bead on the feeling many are trying to convey with their stick-on message. Or maybe “indignant about something more obscure than you” would capture the mood. For those who really want to bring home the message I suggest “indignant that you’re NOT indignant.”

My least favorite bumper sticker reads “If you’re not outraged you’re not paying attention.” I’m a well-educated, thoughtful and caring person whose consciousness of MANY issues has been raised and raised again. I am paying attention and sometimes I do feel outraged but things are the way they are and being in a perpetual state of outrage about them is not appealing to me nor does it help anything. I want to decrease the outrage and increase peace I feel. The paradox of change is that I have to accept the world for what it is before I can do anything to make it a better place. Surely the most lasting changes start not with outrage but with calm resolve.

If I gave the impression that I was about to unveil a master plan to bring about meaningful change to the world I apologize because that’s a little beyond the scope of this blog.

The bumper sticker I have seen the most of around here reads “GMO free Kauai.” But my favorite is “Eddie would Tow” which is a variation on the more commonly seen “Eddie would Go.” Both stickers refer to Eddie Aikau, a legendary Hawaiin beach lifeguard and big wave surfer who died in 1978. “Eddie would Go” simply reminds us to be fearless. Eddie would surf in almost any conditions regardless of how dangerous they might be, and so, it would seem to imply, should anyone who sees this bumper sticker. “Eddie would Tow” is a much more subtle argument. Tow-in surfing, in which surfers are pulled like water skiers by a jet ski into waves so big they might be impossible to surf conventionally, has only been around a few years and certainly did not exist during Eddie Aikau’s lifetime. Old school surfing purists consider tow-in surfing cheating and some believe in goes against the spirit of the sport. The “Eddie would Tow” bumper sticker implies not only how Eddie would have weighed in on this particular controversy of the surfing world, but in invoking the name of such a revered hero seeks to bolster the legitimacy of surfers who have found a way to “go big” that is comparable to the pioneers of big wave surfing’s first attempts to push the envelope of what was possible.

Maybe it’s just because it’s something new but I find it refreshing to live somewhere where bumper sticker dialogs revolve around what it means to surf instead of what place the US should get out of this week. Does that mean I’m not paying attention?


At 8/20/2006, Blogger Time Eagle said...

Have you seen that T-Shirt that just says "College" on it?

And remember that old generic brand that just said "BEER" in black letters on a white can?

I'd like to see more of these so-called "meta" bumber-stickers.

Today's public is ready for the next stage of bumper-stickers. That is to say, one that takes into account bumper-stickers's rich cultural history and evolution into what we see today.

Indeed, the earliest "bumper-stickers" were nothing more than crude images written on paper, affixed with tape or glue. A citizen of those days would hardly recognize this modern marvel we call the bumber-sticker of today.

At 8/21/2006, Blogger BOR-ee-us said...

How about a bumper-sticker that just says "Opinion"

At 9/04/2006, Anonymous Dirk said...

good writing


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