The Inevitable

by Jurisb
the inevitable

I am comfy, reclining in my chair. It’s not a power-actuated Connolly-wrapped throne, but it supports me well enough, like the bench seats of American cars of yore. It’s so easy, sipping a coffee, commenting on the honor of an automotive world passing by. I’m enlightened by Edison’s accomplishment, a light bulb born of endless attempts, scribbling down the wretched life stories of Detroit, seeing the sad eyes of jobless people. I can not print down my tears on the keyboard, nor teleport the saltiness of its character.

I sigh, as millions do, the silent exhale of despair. I mentally walk the doomed path through the pages of the American car industry’s history. I look left and see union arrogance, indignation, intransigence and bully boy tactics. I look right and see management arrogance, incompetence, denial and destruction. I see missed opportunities and senseless distractions. I see pigs at a trough, oblivious to the abattoir's long shadow.

I consider the symptoms of the disease of disinterest, that’s leaving this once holy industrial landscape void. I see the smallest of nits. I taste, I feel, I smell those tiny gaps of a job left undone. A childish slip: those half a dime per square meter cheaper fabrics, those grayish knobs and squeaky rattles from unresolved underpinnings. I remember stories of mechanical failures born of apathy, whose correction was never offered freely, with humility.

I recall the early transgressors on Detroit’s turf, and admire— as millions came to do— their persistence. I celebrate their dedication– even as I decry the home teams’ inability to see past their fat paychecks and generous perks. How much effort would it have taken to respond, to stiff-arm the opposition, rather than laugh as they sprinted towards the end zone, and then, eventually, scramble to catch-up?

The resulting migration started as a trickle, and ended-up a torrent. In an aftertaste of a cheap, high octane alcohol, some still give in and forgive. In a never ending hangover, these supporters crawl out from the dust of zero rebates. Propelled by amnesia and increasingly willful ignorance, the cycle repeats itself. But the crowd shrinks, like a sweater washed too many times at too high a temperature.

Relative to itself, Detroit’s gains are, now, enormous. And yes, their pickup trucks are still the gold standard. But there’s no escaping it: gas guzzlers are like beached whales that cannot return to sea. And dozens of factories are closing. Jobs are disappearing. An industrial waste land, a new rust belt, is aborning.

I wish I could remind Detroit that customers choosing transplanted metal ain’t aliens or Cold War spawns. They were— are— hard-working Americans who depend on their transportation for their quality of life. And the workers who can no longer earn their living from these keepers of the faith are real people too. Management dashed their workers’ expectations of a better life on the rocks of their scotch and soda. There’s only one thing more cynical: their union collaborators.

Where is the discussion of this diaspora? Doesn’t the country know that the domestic automotive industry is still a major economic engine? Can’t they hear it faltering, misfiring? The fat cats can be forgiven. It is their nature. But what of the rest of us? Are we content to let these captains of industry run aground? Can we not see that we will, inevitably, pay for the lifeboats?

Eventually, as Detroit’s Big Three sink beneath the waves, an entire country will despair. Entire communities will be left with anorexic paychecks and bulimic monthly payments. On the wider level, without a viable industrial base, Americans march forward, wading the more and more shallow wadis of service industries, hanging the legacy luggage to our children who will carry on the entitlements and interest payments for the Rising Dragon and their Sakura neighbors.

We should fret and fume, not shrink and shrug, at the apathy and awkwardness whenever fingers get reluctant on the first obstacles of detailing or finalizing an assembly line. We should rip those wires out from game consoles and recreate a can-do garage culture. We should get those comics books out of schools and teach our children not to believe in promises, but the sweat of their own brow. We should tell them that success comes from five percent genius endlessly polished by perseverance.

Perhaps not. Perhaps we should stand back and let society learn the truth of the old maxim: the more painful the lesson, the more important it is. And just let it go. Knowing that we have met the enemy and now, in southern transplant enclaves, he is us. Hoping that a new Detroit will emerge from the ashes of its own incompetence. A Detroit that can renew its contract with the American dream, and wipe the tears from its supporters eyes.

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  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Apr 16, 2008

    What's inevitable is that I know alot of people of cannot afford (without large financing) to buy new vehicles these days. These are not people in danger of losing their homes but people whose incomes have been slow and steady but who just don't make enough to buy a new car every 3 years. We make a good living but there is no way I'd spend that kind of money either ($25K). I'll be content to keep on driving what we've got and fixing them if they break. 150K+ on each. When it does come to time to buy something else - when we HAVE to - we'll buy something used and well cared for and not likely anything domestic b/c used car ownership requires some resemblance of quality to be worthwhile and Detroit isn't in that business yet from what I see in my friends' and family's cars. Drive a VW to 200K and deal with a list of small things myself at low cost or buy a domestic at 100K miles and face blown engines and dead transmissions. Easy choices... FWIW we are very seldom Wal-mart shoppers. We'd like to 100% domestic buyers but the products just arent't there anymore. When they were available (when I was a kid) the gadgets were often a generation or more behind the imports. I was a kid of the 1980s. I think we Americans are just too distracted by our relatively comfortable lifestyle. Maybe a little worried that we might be weird if we take our specialty too seriously (thinking about our ideas and designs a little 24/7).

  • David C. Holzman David C. Holzman on Apr 17, 2008

    I'm not sure that the future of American automobiles isn't in some Tesla-like startup in a place like Silicon Valley.

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