Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Writing that piece about the car industry awoke my dormant autophilia. I was even going to buy a new car but, in this as in so many other areas of my life, the abject failure of the coup against Brown sapped my will. Now I just find myself browsing car stuff on the net. Today this review of P.J.O'Rourke's new book which is, of course, about cars (thanks, Frank). The big quote is:
'Pity the poor American car when Congress and the White House get through with it - a lightweight vehicle with a small carbon footprint, using alternative energy and renewable resources to operate in a sustainable way. When I was a kid we called it a Schwinn.'
I do pity American cars because they're so bad. I know people are sentimental about muscle cars and even gigantic SUVs, but they remain fantastically stupid, inefficient machines, barely able to get round corners. In O'Rourke's mind, however, they have evidently taken on some kind of Palinesque significance as symbols of hard-headed conservative mistrust of government and bright ideas like global warming. But, in fact, they are symbols of a failure to live up to conservative/capitalist values. The American auto industry all but destroyed itself by insulating itself from the world and by churning out cheap, low tech models which could only be sold in its home market. They also showered gold on their own work forces, thus destroying any hope of competing with the Japanese. Any fool can get a roar of approval with O'Rourkean lines - I've done it myself - but it does require one to avoid thought at all costs.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 5:31 am