I can’t remember the model of the car. It was a small Mitsubishi, the economy-sized one. Black and with a 2007 registration, it was an unprepossessing car. A green “P” plate was stuck to the hatchback, the probationary driver plate is not compulsory, but perhaps encourages other drivers to be patient. Perhaps the driver’s parents insisted that he put the plate on the car. It was almost certainly a “he,” for the black paint of the hatchback also bore the letters, “Black Hawk.”
It would be hard to imagine a car less likely to be considered similar to a black hawk than a twelve year old mini-sized car. It seemed a vehicle more similar to a hawk’s prey than to the soaring and swooping raptor itself.
Perhaps, rather than the bird of prey, the car was being compared to the American combat helicopter of the same name. Perhaps the words were meant to evoke thoughts of swift flight and the launch of missiles at a target on the ground, at enemies disappearing in an explosive moment as the pilot turned upwards and homewards. Perhaps not, though, a small car in a supermarket car park is not the stuff of Twenty-First Century warfare.
What is it about? Why would the driver of a small car want to somehow associate his vehicle with speed and flight and ferocity? (I once saw a truck with “Black Stallion” painted across the back of the cab. Looking at the driver, it would have been hard to have imagined someone less like a black stallion). Is there some sort of male identity crisis?
Perhaps it was easier for young men to assert an identity in former times. After the Second World War there were successive waves of fashion that allowed diverging expressions of identity. Distinctive and instantly recognizable styles seemed to come to an end in the 1980s. Younger people now are not dressed in ways that are distinctively different from the mainstream, or even distinctively different from a decade or two decades ago. No Teddy Boys, or Mods, or Rockers, or Hippies, or Punks, or New Romantics: just a monochrome culture of labels.
Perhaps the triumph of neo-liberalism brought not diversity but uniformity as young men absorbed the advertising and the images projected by the media. The illusion of choice is that everyone looks the same. Perhaps putting “Black Hawk” on the back of your small car is a statement of individuality.