Thursday, November 5, 2009


There's something in me very conflicted with the loads of dough that have been brandied about in Washington DC these last 10 years or so. (note I said 'last 10 years or so', as I'm not myopic enough to buy into the horse-hockey about Obama's out of control spending. Don't forget, GOP...a huge portion of that debt is YOU!) On the one hand, I think these companies, be they banks, insurance firms, or auto manufacturers, almost NEED to fail. On the other hand. I can't even begin to fathom a world in which America doesn't make cars, and I recognize that while the financial security of 2 of our three car companies is in question, many of those questions were rippled from a credit crisis that punched GM, Ford, and Chrysler in the face, just like it punched you and me. Still, auto manufacturing in the United States has been teetering on the brink for years, and it is our own gluttony and laziness, and theirs, that put it there.

But I'm not here to debate all that crap about the auto industry. Right now though, I am here to debate the gluttony and the laziness. I'm here to redirect you to a much simpler time, and an easier place, and to lobby for the return of one of America's forgotten symbols of success and prosperity...or maybe misguided perceptions of success, and uselessness and gluttony.

Remember the hood ornament?

These things weren't meant just as handles to assist in the removal of the hot radiator cap, they existed to symbolically direct the occupants of the car - starting with the toddlers in the backseat, looking over their parents shoulders - to better lives...and bigger, more prestigious hood ornaments than the ones that graced their parent's view out over the hood the generation before. We wanted more. We wanted to project that we had more. We wanted to make sure that others around us knew that they were losing, in the unspoken race to success and 'more', to 'Me'.

Hood ornaments represented something that, in our young professional careers, would help us in projecting our self perceived and assigned assets of strength and stamina. Agility and lithe efficiency. Speed. Entitlement. Some of us have more. We will achieve more. Get more. As William Henry proposes in In Defense of Elitism, we deserve it.

And as we Americans grew older, and we realized the American Dream and became Doctors, Lawyers, and Engineers, we yearned to project intelligence and wisdom. Of course, Doctors and Lawyers and Engineers had more wisdom. (?) More potential. More success. They almost owed it to the rest of us to push the target for personal achievement, to show the rest of us with less potential for 'more', the way to 'more'. Like my daughters G.I. Specialist, (who labored to write his notes in her medical history with a very expensive, and very leaky, and nearly non-functional Mont Blanc fountain pen), demonstrated; the achievement of becoming a doctor or lawyer or engineer is almost second in importance to the act of making sure that other people around you know that you are a doctor, lawyer or engineer. That leaky pen existed in that examination room that day, to stress the existence of that 'more'.

Then we retired with our 'more'. We looked for cultured and sophisticated hobbies and pass-times, like pheasant and duck hunting, and later, golf, that we earned with our hard work and our 'more' and our winning in the success race against competitors that many times were unaware of our competition. Even though we no longer pushed to win future challenges, we wanted to make sure that the younger generations knew that we had won our 'more' already, and that they would have to do 'more' in their own race to be 'more' to take the title of 'more' away from us.

Still, in the end we are all made of the same stuff. The same goo and lumps and sticky mess wrapped in biological Saran Wrap, and a car, and it's hood ornament, is just that; a car and a hood ornament. There's Real Irony in the use of our tax money, gleaned from years of effort in toil in pursuit of our symbolic 'more', long used to support the unsustainable sprawl and growth of our nations roadways, now instead going to support a failing industry floundering under the weight of, and symbolized by, such an iconic figure such as the hood ornament. We complained about the taxes. We complained about the traffic, and we complain today about the bailout. Aren't they all the same?
When is More actually Less?

1 comment:

Steve said...

Interesting rumination on the culture of excess. I'd argue that more is almost always less -- but a lot of people don't agree with me!

I never cared for hood ornaments. I'm a minimalist, as you know, so I like my cars simple. (Hello, Honda Civic.) Weren't they originally designed to help the driver position the car on the road? I thought they were supposed to act like a gun sight -- you use the hood ornament to line up with the line on the shoulder so you don't run off the road.