You may recall Jack Baruth from my earlier conversations with him on such divers topics as computers and cuckoldry. It’s no startling confession, then, to say that I have more respect for him than, say, his cocksure younger brother, for Jack is one of the more erudite, culturally cognisant, and psychosexually aware bloggers out there. As such, I don’t mind taking the time to read his frequent musings on TTAC,i Road&Track,ii and on his personal blog. No one better blends the Five P’s : Porsches,iii Phaetons,iv Politics, Psychology, and Pussy.
But everyone has their off days, and I’m not sure if Jack was nursing a particularly stiff Ketel One hangover or if he was just having a box-o’-tissue kind of day,v but he’s so far off the mark here that I can’t help but steal and chop his latest piece, The Decline and Fall of the Supercar Empire. Let’s do this :
I want to believe that all of the waiting-list and preferred-customer hysteria is a direct consequence of the significant improvements in today’s supercars. Yet I know in my heart that’s not the case. We live in a world where the rich keep getting richer, and that is why the demand for everything from Bentley Mulsannes to Pagani Huayras is at record levels. It’s a world where Mazda’s decision to produce another generation of Miata virtually amounts to charity because the pool of prospective middle-class buyers keeps shrinking but Bugatti can raise the price of the Chiron to $2.5 million and nobody bats an eyelash.
The worst part about this, speaking as a dyed-in-the-wool automotive enthusiast, is that this economic stratification produces less involving supercars than we’d have otherwise. I’ll explain. If the middle-class economy can’t sustain sales of great enthusiast cars like the Miata and the Mustang, then the chances of young people being exposed to those cars in their parents’ garages or the used-car lots of their neighborhoods declines. So even if those young people eventually have the means to buy a supercar, they won’t have any idea of what a real performance car should be.
In other words, the reason you can’t get a stick shift on a Ferrari nowadays has nothing to do with Formula One. I say it’s because the average self-made Ferrari owner has never operated a stick shift in his life. He was never exposed to stick-shift cars, because there’s no longer enough money floating around the middle class for everybody’s dad to have an MG or a Miata as a third car. He has no real idea how to drive a fast car. So his supercar has to cater to that incompetence.
What Jack’s missing here with his soi-disant “explanation” is deeper than inequality – which actually isn’t on the rise, despite the rampant and statistically fallacious claims to the contrary – so much as the mental impoverishment of The West in general and the USA in particular is soaring like that elevator strapped to the rocket in Einstein’s famous Gedankenexperiment. They think it’s just plain old gravity! To equalitarianism… and beyond!!1 Alas, The West is sinking like a rock and imagining that the mounting leagues of water overhead give two shits about whether “the people” live or die. All the while, the [paper] money is actively redirecting itself towards Chinese tastes faster than you can say “yi yi zhi yi.” vi
No one gives a shit about the American middle class, nor should they, nor could they even if they wanted to for some bleeding-heart reason. The US is no longer an industrial power ; those days are over. So even if you can find the odd dishwasher or pair of shoes assembled there, the working heuristic for those intent on surviving in industries other than those dominated by USG-dole-sucking-catamites is that the US citizens are too stupid to deal with and its regulations too onerous to comply with to the point where it’s simply uneconomical to even try.vii If the USMegaGovCorps have them, let ‘em have ‘em. Let ‘em pump the cows full of corn and let the rest of us wash our hands of the sorry lot.
Though he doesn’t quite seem to realise it, Jack’s point about the average self-made Ferrari owner seems to hint at exactly this. After all, the average age of said fellow is only 32 in China compared to 47 in the US. But while it’s entirely likely that a large proportion of Chinese Fandago owners have never driven manual transmissions – given that 90% of high-end cars there are, as most everywhere else, automatic – it doesn’t also stand to reason that the death of the automobile for the common man is in anyway related, at least not anymore than one’s personal inability to find a date has anything to do with a pimp’s ability to stack hoes. Supercars have always been testbeds for technology, acmes of innovation, and moonshots for millionaires ; it would take a truly Marxist rewriting of history to argue that only “the people” know what a supercar “should be.” Seriously, “the people” can take the bus.
Also, Bugattis are seriously dope and nobly carry on the long-standing and well-established tradition of top-speed oneupmanship. Carrying on :
No wonder, then, that the Autopilot-equipped Tesla P90D is the new darling of today’s Gilded Age buyers. It’s the ultimate prestige car for somebody who can’t drive worth a damn and has no interest in learning how to drive worth a damn. You can say what you want about the people who bought 1976 Porsche 930 Turbos, and a lot of what you could say would have the word “cocaine” somewhere in it, but you can’t say that any idiot could drive the thing in a hurry. The same was true for the Ferrari F40 and the two-wheel-drive Gallardos. Hell, it was true about the original Mercedes 300SL, in a very big way.
The only bright spot I can find in all of this is the same bright spot that Edward Gibbon found in the decline and fall of the Roman Empire; it eventually led to a more enlightened and democratic era. In the meantime, it’s perhaps best to view modern supercars the way we’ve come to view the ancient ziggurats of South America. Appreciate their beauty, marvel at their construction, stand in awe of their geometric perfection, but never forget that the men who stood at their apices weren’t shy about shedding blood.
Really ?? Last I checked the Saudis and Dubaians were soaking up said supercars like they were meeting Allah for breakfast tomorrow and couldn’t be less shy about shedding blood. They’re a hell of a lot less frigid than obeast UStards and probably up their with Russians for pure automotive-powered fatalism. Speaking of Russians, talk about another country whose residents are snapping up these supercars. For the nth time, NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE US!!!1 It’s a backwater, forgotten but not gone. Nothing more. I can’t be the only one who thinks it’s pretty lulzy that the only meatpuppets who give half a fuck about the Tesla workout plan (oh wait that’s P90X) are too poor to buy one and are almost exclusively ESLersviii who spend their workdays on TechCrunch memorising valuation numbers for ponzi scams instead of building the small empires needed to afford $100k electric cars as third or fourth vehicles.
Not to mention that after the fall of the Roman Empire at the hands of the barbarian hordes, manliness did return. And how. That this was eminently more enlightened than the effete remnants of the 1`000 year goliath of statal history isn’t in dispute, nor could it be to anyone who’s read Gibbon or Abdy or any of the works curated by Duby that there was anything in the least bit “democratic” about the feudal systems that followed. To say that democracy is compatible with feudalism, or indeed any of the higher virtues of man, takes a lens more twisted and tortured than Escher’s. And yet my fellow long-hair twists and tortures just so, it seems.
Maybe Jack was having a moment, maybe he was just momentarily seeing what he wanted to see like the rest of his compatriots, or maybe he’s finally had an accident that broke more than bones.
Either which way, it’s a big world out there, and very little of it has to do with ObamaTrumpClitler’s fucktoy. Nota bene.
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UPDATE : I just found out that Baruth, now in his mid-40’s, was recently remarried to a young mother in her early 30’s. The missing link! Definitely maybe!!
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- Though one has to be tread carefully over at TTAC, there are lulzy landmines in every margin and in every header. [↩]
- Even though, for my liking, Jack’s far too obsessed with the clicks and likes he receives on his R&T pieces, it might have something to do with his compensation, which is to say, his continued opportunity to write for the mag. Probably a fair guess, even though it obviously skews his incentives towards writing inflammatory, panderous bullshit that’s well beneath a writer of his calibre. [↩]
- Jack currently owns a 993 and a Boxster. [↩]
- He owned two at some point, perhaps the only American to ever simultaneously own a pair of the $100k VWs. His tales of tracking them – yes tracking 5`000 lbs. luxury sedans – almost certainly set me off on the course whereupon I’d pick up first a 560SEL then a 460L, though neither has yet to see a closed circuit.
Still, why no Phaeton for Pete ? Because the last one I test drove broke veeeery expensively. So even though they’re available in the perfectly tempting $10-15k range, the prospect of servicing them means that I’d sooner spend the (not so little) bit extra to buy a ContiGT and be done with it. Because for pimping inconspicuously, it’s mega-hard to beat the Merc. [↩]
- Speaking of Jack’s moods, about 5 weeks ago, as he’d hinted at, Jack e-mailed me to ask a follow-up Q about a comment I’d made on his site that seemed to be giving him fits. I promptly responded, and at some length, but he still failed to give me the consideration of so much as an acknowledgment of receipt either public or private. So let’s publish our little one-two for the record here because it seems an utter waste to wait ad inifinitum for him to do something with it :
I’ve read a few things by you that I wanted to respond to, but I wanted to give you a chance to explain further. The first one:
” If it wasn’t Tinder, it’d be those evil cafes where kids would get into no end of trouble, just as was the concern in 17th century England. Plus ca change.”
The other I’m having trouble finding, but it’s a post on your blog related to women having trouble understanding their interface with technology. If I find the link I’ll send it — I’m working a hell of a backlog right now.
So what I want to ask is this: Are you attempting to argue that human behavior is minimally affected by tools? Would you suggest that female sexuality is not manifestly changed by Tinder or Match? Would you suggest that people with access to deadly modern tools of warfare are no more or less likely to use them than Middle Age proles with halberds?
What’s your opinion on the intersection between availability and usage of technology?
I think it’s patently ridiculous to argue that women were just as promiscuous in 17th Century England as they are now — not because human nature is changing but because the tools have changed.
My response :
Thanks for touching base. I was looking forward to hearing from you.
First off, when claiming that x or y is patently ridiculous, it serves to do the homework (eg. 1, 2, 3). As these links well demonstrate, promiscuity is a phenomenon as old as time itself, and one well known to England of yesteryear. Now, I’ll grant that 17th century England is not the same as 21st century USA, but to my eye, much of this is a consequence of geography, viz. that the US is gargantuanly gigantic is terms of land area and that England is comparatively compact, particularly given population sizes. I suppose we could say that Tinder, Grindr, et al. have recreated the social collisions obsoleted by suburbia and the general diffusion of the American populace, but I find it hard to swallow the theory that loose sexuality was created de novo by an app on your phone ; if anything, it’s rebuilding bridges broken by poor civil planning, and it’s these rebuilt bridges that are unleashing the human behaviour we’re observing here. But hey, there’s nothing better for GDP than broken windows and car accidents, right ?
I’ll further grant, again in view of the aforementioned links, that all unmarried sexual congress is not the same thing as prostitution, and that prostitution feeds on both economic and intellectual shortcomings in the girl, though this isn’t to say that there haven’t always and everywhere been girls interested in a variety of men, perhaps in the hope that one of them will be The One (ie. a sufficiently competent provider), but perhaps for other reasons as well. What’s unique today, certainly relative to Blighty of Ol’, is that women can engage in these types of salacious behaviours, the types that once would’ve been the sole dominion of prostitutes, and now do so without explicit remuneration for the simple reason that these women are, for the most part, sufficiently financially independent. If there’s anything historically exceptional about the current socioeconomic arrangements in the Western World, it’s this.
As to the tools themselves, like any environmental circumstance, they obviously affect our behaviour ; whether it’s guns or mountain ranges or apps or oceans, they matter. They can open doors, to be sure, even if they can’t make you walk through them. To relate this to our original discussion, rather than viewing the reinvigorated outburst of female sexual liberty as a completely unprecedented innovation, it’s better viewed as a return to historical normalcy for a continent that has so long aimed to paper over the lessons of history with technological supremacy and the fallacy of social progress and mass social mobility. It’s actually a bit ironic that it’s technology that’s facilitating this rounding of the circle, but what’s really intruiguing is that these girls no longer need subject themselves to the lamentable tragedy of being pimped out. Now, to a degree, they can pimp themselves out, taking a page from Asimov in leaving specialisation for the insects, but that’s a totally different story. If being a career path for a woman has any attendant benefits, it’s certainly the ability to take their 20’s finding the right partner. So yes, the tools have changed, but the shadow of psychosocial change looms greater still.
BTW, was this the article you were thinking of ? >> http://www.contravex.com/2015/09/06/mommy-bloggers-unite/
Camille Paglia, one of the wiser and more unconventional thinkers alive in America today, and doubly so amongst those of the female persuasion (though if you don’t think much of her, recall that this is a relative statement), has this relevant bit of support to add to my proposition that recent increases in promiscuity are attributable to the detachment of sex from the need to attract a material provider :
Now, women can be self-supporting, can live totally on their own. It’s part of this whole Western world powered by capitalism that our university curricula are now habitually always demeaning. Capitalism made women’s emancipation possible.
I think that the problem right now is that young women have been taught that to somehow identify their own sense of personal unhappiness with men, and men are responsible for our unhappiness, when in fact, part of the issue is that we have lived as a species for tens of thousands of year, where mating occurred early, where you left your parents’ house, and had your own household, and your own children.
Juliet, in Romeo and Juliet, is 13 going on 14, and already, she’s ready for marriage. In this life, we have a very long, an unnaturally long period here, before women can attain some sense of who they are as women. I think that that is — .
It’s not men. It’s not the patriarchy, and it’s ultimately not a feminist issue. It has something to do with this very mechanical system of the modern technological, professional world that has emerged to replace the agrarian period, when there were multiple generations living with each other, and women had a natural sense of solidarity, being all together.
There was the world of women, and the world of men, once. They didn’t have that much to do with each other once. All the problems have happened since we started having to deal with each other.
- Even Disney, the quintessentially Jewish-powered, Nazi-harbouring film company is slobbing those little knobs. [↩]
- Which is why, for example, Porsche has moved in the “impure” direction they have. Go China or go home. [↩]
- English as a Solitary Language. [↩]