From Stockholm with Love
Stockholm Syndrome. Automobiles as perpetrators whose hostages we enjoy to be.
It all started with the comment by John Coleman to one of my articles.
That is how the article was born.
So, I gave this idea a thought. Then I gave it another, a much deeper thought. Then I spent a sleepless night thinking. Thank you, John, for obstructing my brains with the issues of criminal psychology, “dark” philosophy, and high-tech engineering. Much appreciated.
Let me start with a sincere assumption that you like the theatre. Even if you do not, there is an interesting thing you may consider discovering. The catharsis thing.
The catharsis has first been described by an ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle far earlier than our grand-grand-...-grand-parents were born. It is only James May who might have known Aristotle personally. Anyway, the catharsis means pleasure-through-suffering. Unlike the BDSM, however, the pleasure is neither physical, nor connected to sex. It emerges while one observes a tragedy played on a stage, absorbs grievous emotions, and becomes consumed with an empathy to the characters to such an extend that the latter invokes pleasure.
In other words, catharsis is an emotional purification. An experience which reboots us and brings our feelings of pity and fear to their proper balance. Catharsis mends our spoiled essences through fetching them from behind all our social protective shields and throwing them “into the face”. Our face. It forces us to rethink the world and make it look new again. Catharsis makes us truly virtuous and happy individuals.
Do not exaggerate the “power” of the ancient tragedies, though. From the contemporary viewer’s perspective, they are an odd combination of dancing, singing, and crying on the stage. They have very few in common with the Hollywood thrillers, horrors, or even dramas which we would appreciate. Actors speak from behind the heavy masks. Personally, I would not find these tragedies cathartic enough.
What would break through my shields, though, is the Stockholm Syndrome experience.
Tragic masks of the ancient tragedies.
Imagine a pleasant afternoon. You are in a bank solving your routine business. As always, everything goes smooth. Up to a moment when – out of the blue – an armed man breaks inside, kicks you down, and orders to lie face to the floor. This is a robbery! Other visitors, as well as the bank employees, are lying next to you. However, the robbery failed. The alarm worked out and the police is on its way. You hear the sirens. The armed man can not run away. Too late. Furious, he orders you to crawl to the vault.
Your first day in the vault is disastrous. Scared and frustrated, you are doomed to stay within the four walls with the robber. You breathe the same air! There is no water and food. He constantly threatens to kill you. Finally, he allows you to go to the toilet. What a relief!
During the second day the robber gives you some water. Dead hostages are not that worthy. He also stops his offences as there is no threat coming from you. Actually, you can not even think of taking any other action, except for the one which will prolong your life.
The third day. He stops pointing at you with his gun all the time. He gives you a sandwich.
Fourth day. Her tells you his story. The story of a ruined life. You start thinking of his story more than of your current situation. You try getting into his shoes.
Fifth day. The robber is, actually, not that bad. He attacked the bank as it was his last resort. He does not threaten to kill you any more.
Sixth day. He sets you free. He is your hero!
This situation – or very similar to this – took place in the real life. On 23 August 1973 four people were taken hostage in one of the Stockholm banks by a 32-year-old career-criminal Jan-Erik Olsson. Six days later, after the hostages were freed, the psychologists discovered with amazement that all four of them had formed a positive attitude towards their perpetrator. They could justify and even admired his actions. It seems to me that they survived the personal tragedy and “purified” themselves through experiencing the extreme emotions. They reached a new post-cathartic balance of pity and fear. Psychologists defined this as the Stockholm Syndrome.
In a nutshell, the Stockholm Syndrome resides in the gradual establishment of positive relations between the victim and the perpetrator. It has become recently applied to explaining the psychological consequences of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual harassment. John Coleman's comment made me wonder to what extend it can also be applied to the car-and-driver relations.
The one who unscrewed this dashboard, and screwed back afterwards, knows how the Stockholm Syndrome truly feels
It seems to me that the car, as just it leaves the factory, transmutes into the doom for the driver. Even if the latter has no idea of this doom approaching. In other words, every car is a masterpiece of engineering crafted not only to transport you from point A to point B, but also to evoke fun and sufferings during this journey, before this journey, and after this journey.
You may encounter the car you want to own and drive at any moment. Either intentionally, or not. You may be hit by its stunning look on a chewing gum cover, in a classic-car journal you read in a toilet (sorry for this detail, John Coleman), or on a closed forum dedicated to the lithium-graphene batteries. As just this moment comes, you start thinking and dreaming of this car. You wish to see it, smell it, touch it as much as possible. You go to the official dealership – or to any vendor who has it on the list – and order a test-drive. The car is perfect. It consumes you. It hypnotizes you. You want to purchase it. Every day you want to pass through the place where the car resides to have one more glance at it and make your purchase intention convincing enough. Convincing for yourself! It usually happens that your dream car is more expensive then the one you can afford. So, you start recalculating expenses to make your budget fit the bill.
Hesitation. Sleepless nights. Family talks. No appetite. Family quarrels. Last pennies. Bank loans.
Then the car is purchased. You are on the seventh heaven performing “The Road to Hell” with the angels! This is, however, a frustrating trap. The beginning of the major sufferings. Expensive insurance. Expensive spares. Even more expensive servicing. Constantly growing loan rate. The necessity to undergo regular checks and prolong the manufacturer’s guarantee. And then there are unavoidable bumps and scratches on the bodywork which hurt as deep as cuts right on your heart.
It is not you who owns the car, it is the car who owns you. It “tells” you what to do and you can not object. It “demands” attention and obedience. It becomes your perpetrator. Because you willingly allowed it to become such. And you find pleasure in this kaleidoscope of sufferings.
Even if you say that the Stockholm Syndrome does not apply to you because you use car only as the car, you will be wrong. Above all, you decided to buy this car because you needed to move around. Walking was not an option. And you will become frustrated when one day – out of the blue – it does not ignite. This changes your plans for the whole day (or maybe a few days). This intrudes into your private life. This consumes your money.
Money... With the every new year you invest more and more of them. 10K, 20K, 30K kilometres… Replacement of filters, oil, belts, spark plugs, brake callipers. 40K, 50K, 60K… Replacement of battery, tyres, spark wires, brake discs, shock absorbers, plugs again, brake callipers again. 70K, 80K, 90K… Replacement of clutch, valve clearance, rust, new battery again, new tyres again. The list may be continued. The car gets older and becomes less reliable.
But with every new year, with every new replacement you discover more shades of the car. You love it more. You hope that your flawless subjugation will make it “happier” and less “oppressive”. But this does not always work. The car continues to fail. And at a certain moment you understand that it requires more than a regular maintenance. Your perfect car requires the overhaul.
Hesitation. Sleepless nights. Family talks. No appetite. Family quarrels. Last pennies. Bank loans?
Frustrated, you start thinking of selling the car. Your family is happy! Finally!!! But this appears to be impossible. There are too many things connecting you. The car remembers every kiss you gave to your wife. Your children grew up on its rear seats. There still remain the stain of your dog's poo in the trunk. The car has saved you live that winter, when you had to floor the throttle to slip between the two sliding trucks (and become a hero)! It almost made you blood freeze the same winter, when the radiator leaked and you waited for assistance in an open field.
Wait... Wait... Mates, I have just understood a very major thing!
The Alfa Romeo company... they are criminals! They commit perfect crimes! They manufacture so many great-looking and great-driving cars that you can not escape, but become captured by one. These cars simply kick you down. They are rude, but loving. They make you suffer, but evoke exuberant joy. They scream at you and whisper in a moment. They make you befriend the other Alfa Romeo victims during your regular visits to the service stations. You hate when these cars get broken and you get exalted when they are fixed! They drain your wallet, but – at the end of the day – they give you the ultimate feeling of an absolute freedom and satisfaction. The catharsis.
And on your death bed, when all life memories flash in a film in front of your eyes, you will see your perfect car again. Very likely the Alfa Romeo. You will feel the same extremes of pain and joy. From the moment of purchase to the moment when the family forced you to sell it...
But you could not do harm to your perpetrator, right?
Isn't it your grandson playing with the keys?
The last glimpse. The last bittersweet smile. Time to rest in peace.
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P.S. Matt Parsons can be reached here: www.behance.net/Matthew_Parsons_SA