Last week, on our commute to her school, my daughter made a rather dismissive comment about cars. She said "Ian, cars aren't cool anymore". I've heard quite a few kids say that recently, and studies show that more and more kids are opting out of learning to drive, partially due to the financial climate, but also out of dissatisfaction.
And I think it's true that cars aren't cool anymore. There was a time when cars were cool - back in the 1920s, when most of them had an open cockpit, when you started them with a crank and when you needed to wear goggles and a heavy driving coat. But now? She's right - they aren't cool, and I think they're not very 'manly'.
My daughter made me realize that, as far as 'manly' commuting goes, driving a car leaves something to be desired: it's air conditioned, you sit in a comfy chair, you can drive in your shirt even in a blizzard, there's a radio, cupholders, GPS, etc. It's hardly 'Scott of the Antarctic'. The motorist's motto is something akin to "Hope the seat warmer is working" or "Glad I've got my coffee".
Meanwhile, those on bicycles and motorbikes have a different and much more rugged experience: you're out in the elements, you're on a saddle (how manly is that!), no radio, no cupholder (other than a cage with a bottle of near freezing water), no GPS, you must balance and wrestle the bike through rain, wind, snow. Your motto, like that of the Post Office is "Victory or Death". If you cycle more than half a mile you get more excitement than a motorist gets in a week.
Even car ads have a sort of desperation about them - they're all about danger, thrills and driving fast somewhere exotic, but when the ad gets to the interior, it always just looks kinda weak. And the outside... well, they all look the same - and they're almost always offered in shades of grey. And you know that when you actually drive it, it's not going to be an experience of driving like a bat out of hell on the Nurburgring - it's going to be pottering along at 5mph in bumper-to-bumper traffic while cyclists and bikers pass you by. The fact is, the modern car experience is slow, frustrating and BORING!
So, assuming other members buy the premise, what happened to make cars go all wimpy and boring? And when did it happen? Was there some key moment when the car lost its manliness? Why is it that modern cars just don't have that 'manliness quotient' anymore?
When did intentional discomfort become manly? I could go out to my garage and put a 10p nail through my big toe, which, from what I hear, is uncomfortable; does that make me more manly?
I'm not defending Chucks Prius; they serve a purpose as something for me to chuckle at while I drive. If you are getting your manliness from your vehicle then you are most likely a man child and you only have your self tricked into thinking you have any manly attributes. I see far too many douche bags driving trucks like the one Chuck posted a picture of to connect that with any sort of manliness. I know manly guys who drive trucks like that one but they would be manly no matter what they drive.
Maybe they're compensating for some, other, lack?
I guess I'm a hypocrit. I've been looking at 4x4 trucks as the replacement for my Ford Fusion. Honestly, it's not that I just like trucks, which I do, I require a vehicle that I can load 8 sheets of plywood and a few dozen 2x4s into often enough where it would come in handy. What is excesive is my wanting a truck with at least a 4" lift kit and big mudders although that would come in handy when camping or fishing, if I ever get around to doing that.
There's a lot of you here & I'll give just one answer--except where I made fun of Chuck's peacocking. It turns out his efficiency argument is a way for him to stand out--vanity, eh? Who among us cannot relate to that?
Now, for all of you: I did not say that the intentional seeking of severe discomfort is manly. But I do say that courting danger is manly. A man need not jump off a cliff to prove his manliness, although manly men not infrequently go to far. But a guy who never walks near heights of any kind--because there is danger there--is not a man. Men do not, I think, because of their manliness suddenly develop a love of pain. But enduring pain is part of manliness. To say that a man might have endurance without ever testing it, or only very infrequently, whereas most of his life he really seeks & achieves comfort--is to say men are not men.
& perhaps this is more democratic, because it requires less: Not shying away from danger is manly. Not dedicating the greatest science & the greatest economy the world has yet seen, or likely will ever come to see, to comfort--that is also manly.
There is a reasonable degree of danger; & there is insanity; but there is also the weakness of comfort; to say nothing of cowardice. Chuck argued specifically the manliness is really the result of a desire for efficiency, reliability, & comfort. No. Manliness is not that. Manliness is confidence--borne of knowledge, mostly practical--in the face of danger--such dangers especially as are borne of necessity. Dangers not of necessity are useful for training...
It is a car, for commuting. It isn't crossing the Sahara with a tribe of wild goat herders riding rhino's with freakin' lazers attached to their horns chasing you for all the gold and hot chicks in Vegas
This talk of danger sounds more like mental masturbation than cool, calm practical reality based on true necessity.
You're right, Shields, you just don't see that there are problems with being right. It's precisely because most men do not have it in them to be TR, or even less than that, that they need in their daily lives something to call their attention to that. I guess that's why even the weaklings of today's world love blockbusters.
As for the rest: Cool, calm calculations might make you into a completely mercenary creature. There are problems with that. It is reasonable to remind people that businesses also require some manliness, sometimes even nobility--because they are not for sure, because they have to take risks, because they cannot predict, much less control the future, but require the ability to roll with the punches. In short, intellect is not by itself enough, manly endurance is also required. You do not get to promote that in a democracy in great heroes. You need little things that democrats understand. Kids who loved their great cars two generations ago were not superheroes; they just got what all boys get about roaring engines. It is not going to save souls or countries; it is not going to transform mankind; but it does its part in a noble cause-
I think we're getting hung up on the word 'comfort'. Chuck is right - there's nothing wrong with comfort - after all, there's nothing more manly than sitting in a comfy armchair in front of a roaring fire smoking a pipe and reading a leather-bound book.
But I think the issue here - and the reason I framed my question the way I did, is that it seems to me that modern cars have removed the adventurous parts of driving - the feel of the road, the interaction with weather and the environment in general that made the early cars undeniably manly, and replaced them with what is essentially a mobile couch for a mobile couch potato. This is the crux of the matter, and even Chuck's image of the pickup illustrates the problem - sure, the outside looks rugged. But underneath all that mud, we're still looking at a mobile couch for a mobile couch potato. It's shiny, it has a wimpy stripe, a fully encased interior. It just looks... well, blah.
I think the last real car was the old Landrover. Now that was a manly car. Since then, it's all been downhill. Even the Hummer - that supposedly uber-manly car - was more of a statement about inadequacy than it was about being confident and adventurous.
Chuck argued specifically the manliness is really the result of a desire for efficiency, reliability, & comfort. No. Manliness is not that.
So, it comes down to philosophy. Goody. This is going to be fun.
Titus, you're full of crap. Here's why.
Human history is a struggle to overcome nature, by shaping it to our will. We shape straight lines. We shape overhangs. We shape homes. We weave textiles. We invent machinery. Etc. But, what these all have in common is a desire to modify our environment to be more pleasant, for us.
Manliness can be boiled down to a willingness to act on that primal urge. It's not a desire to engage danger, to seek it out, but more a desire to avoid it.
Even such mundane items as the clothes on your back can be argued to be part of that desire for comfort and control. So why would we deny ourselves the fruits of those labors? Countless generations have labored towards that goal.
This concept of nobility is interesting to me, though. Please, if you would, expand on that thought. Is your tee shirt more or less noble than your dress shirt? Are your dress shoes more or less noble than your sneakers? And, where do my cowboy boots fall on your list?
Actually, let's break it down even more. Would Reeboks be more or less noble than Nikes?
To me, these are just tools. They're not deep moral questions with which I endlessly wrangle. And, this illustrates the difference between our approaches to this discussion.
As to your crack about my "peacocking..." Please go back and read what I wrote. I said a car is a tool, chosen logically, and then I dared to include a personal example. The entire sub-thread which resulted is nothing more than the result of your own disbelief and refusal to accept those facts.
If you really want to fight about this, Titus, feel free. But I suggest you find someone else to belittle. I know what I believe. And why. Your approval is not necessary to my equation.
I agree that mankind has struggled to survive. When man is not busy surviving, apparently he turns to his pleasures. Comfort is required for that, oblivion: Man needs to forget about death & pain to enjoy himself. So the good is the pleasant. The men who calculate most rationally their pleasures such that they do not lead to pain--as drinking too much causes hangovers--are the best men.
Perhaps. You point out that manliness is an inferior virtue: It serves a purpose. You could call it a tool. How did we get so far, to live long lives full of pleasure? By striving in a manly way. We might add, reason had a lot to do with it, too. But are reason & manliness servants to comfort & pleasure? They obviously are. So much manliness & reason was wasted to keep Americans safe & snug, that the conclusion is inescapable. But we never see that the most reasonable or the manliest treat them as such. In fact, we see that the greatest men do not seek a life of easy comfort.
What is the use of the noble? It gets people to endure pain they could avoid. In Israel, for example, the wealthy few expect their kids not only to do their time in the military, but to excel in the toughest units. Why not be comfortable, do the least required, or use influence & power to avoid it? Why not take the easy road of pleasure if you can? Why endure hardship? Unless you get nobility, you cannot answer that. Without that, the world would have long succumbed.
Civilization offers pleasures; the refinement of the arts & sciences mocks nobility; but that makes people weak; who will defend them from barbarians? What if there hadn't been a Churchill, who always worried in everything about the nobility of this, that or the other? TR had that in him, too. You are right to mock people who think like me or who acted like him. I overthink things for a living; just like manly men make an issue & a problem of far too many things...
But I think you will want your kids educated by someone who reminds them that the easy life is ignoble, not someone who advertises that you do it all for pleasure. I think you will find that if you cannot appeal to a boy's sense of honor & shame, of the noble, or beautiful, you cannot educate him.
& of course, I think you will want military commanders who think about victory for their country & their troops, not how to make the military more comfortable. People have to be willing to choose hardship, to think & to act in a daring manner. That connects great thinkers to great statesmen or soldiers; & they all seem to know it. In a sense, all these men serve your comfort. Why do so many choose to suffer in unpleasant situations? So that you enjoy a comfortable, protected life. If you compare the life of Americans to the life of those threatened by war, you would immediately see the difference. Of course, you can mock the minds of those who have always protected you. That's the pleasure of civilization & peace, after all. But do you think they could live their lives if they thought about comfort & pleasure above all? There is little comfort & pleasure in duty. Nobility immediately is connected to duty, however. You have pointed out with humor that the choices likely to come before a regular Joe have none of them anything to do with nobility. What does that say? Is not that why Americans have come to want their wars over rather than won? Why they do not care about those who died?
Are we still talking about cars?
No, not any more. The man sees that there is a philosophical point to be argued. That cars stand for man's ancient struggle against nature. He has a point. I just disagree with how far it can be pushed. It's what he calls philosophy. Maybe not your game, Shields.