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?
Shields, as to what is nobility, I think the best place to start is the great men. Their nobility seems to me as obvious as anything known to man. What makes them noble is one or the other or both of two things. First, that they showed the utmost that human beings can achieve; secondly, that they lived their lives for the sake of great causes, without much concern to their own individual good. Unless it can be said to be good for Lincoln to get himself killed--even more so for any soldier that has died for America--then it follows he was pursuing something else than his good, for they all acted knowing of danger & death.
The most typical thing about nobility--the first that seeps through, that you see in manners, in propriety of dress & speech, in a well-rounded education, &c.--is that the good is replaced by concern about reputation, that is to say what other people think of you, either the people in general, as for politicians, or your men, as for generals, or the ones who share your virtues or talents, such as a writer's peers. This concern for reputation may seem superficial: It certainly points to the importance of the surface of things. So does painting, so do movies, so do statues. Reputation is the image of the man; it's like hearsay, or gossip, but more coherent. It's what all stories aim to achieve. Not mere plausibility, also an insight into what it means to be human.
You can tell that it is not purely subjective or arbitrary, because it can last thousands of years--it may well be immortal--& it affects very many people in the same way, pointing all of them in the same direction.
So are you saying nobility is the act of caring about how others perceive you?
Shields, as to what is nobility, I gave you also the briefest definition, because I do not think you would like my extended observations on the phenomenon. It is first doing things for the good of others, not for one's own good; & secondly, doing great things.
As for what I think about the beginning of nobility in reputation, that is one of my observations on the phenomenon. It is like moving from things to speeches. Learning not only what a horse is but why a man would love his horse. For example, if you happen to know a man you have reason to believe is a great man, caring what he thinks of you would already show the awareness of nobility.
But this other aspect is always hard to judge. For example, Washington designed his uniforms & had a care about these things that made some at least think him superficial or unusually vain or what have you. Maybe he just understood why soldiers wear uniforms... Another thing about him, he refused to exchange letters with the British commanders up until they wrote to him as Gen. Washington. Again, it might seem like vanity; it might be a need to be recognized by the enemy...
Granted, they're not affordable to anyone other than the top 1 percent types, but have you guys seen Morgan Motor Company?
Check em out. Absolutely beautiful cars. Beautiful.
Why are we having this conversation? The vehicle doesn’t make the man; is this all about appearance? Here is an example of manliness:
I have a 100+ mile commute for work each day. I was driving a 4 wheel drive, 4 door truck and spending over 600 dollars a month in gas just for that commute. I sold it, bought a Chevy Cruse, and now spend 200 dollars a month in gas for that commute. I have freed up 400 dollars a month to invest and use to support and provide for my family, which is top priority for me. So, that is what manliness is, not what kind of vehicle I drive!
Are you sure you want to say that frugality or economy is the same as manliness? It could simply be greed...
What if a man's priority is the car, so he rather gets a divorce so that he can save money that way? Or is it providing for the family that is manly & saving money from the car is just a means?
There's no such thing as a cheap divorce!
Well, that's tough luck for the Americanos, I guess-
Gradually...over time, just as the american male has lost his manliness.
I've only skimmed the previous comments.
As for cars and "manliness" in the particular, least important, aesthetic, does-AoM-like-it sense, I'd say it has to do with the increasing complexity and specialization of automobiles, such that it takes more skill, time, and tools to have "working on [late model] cars" as a hobby.
The increasing complexity and specialization has many causes, with chicken-and-egg dilemmas between consumer demands and government standards for safety and efficiency. The emissions and mileage standards drive the visual design issues you're discussing, as well as choice of components like fiberglass over metal.
Safety (crumple factor) also plays a big role in choice of components, and again with technical complexity. Now we have not just seat belts, but anti-lock breaks and airbags, all managed by computers.
As for "coolness," besides the lost hobby, not just grown-up media, but school curricula are dominated by talk of carbon emissions and global warming, with cars a major scapegoat. Demographic trends are heading away from suburbs into cities, where cars are for the wealthy and/or passe. And even for rural and suburban kids, trends come from the cities.
I hope you are right. Too many cars, it's not sustainable.