November 30, 2011

1956 Cadillac Eldorado

1956 Cadillac Eldorado

And the most natural thing of all—the driving force behind everything we do—is competition, which is also sacrosanct.

Donald Symons describes the competition between men and women in his seminal The Evolution of Human Sexuality:

Men and women differ in their sexual natures because…the sexual desires and dispositions that were adaptive for either sex were for the other tickets to reproductive oblivion.

Bob Lutz describes the competition between GM and Toyota:

GM’s relationship with Toyota was unusual. It appeared to be a case of mutual admiration. Toyota admired GM’s huge size and global reach, while GM, finally aware of the competitive threat, wanted to glean the secret of Toyota’s enviable quality record and manufacturing prowess.

Men and GM may be big and strong, but women and Toyota have the manufacturing prowess, and it is this competitive friction that produces babies and satisfied consumers.

Competition, says Lutz, is what made the tailfins grow longer. Competition, say Jethá and Ryan, is what made men’s testes grow heavier. This gives us testy men and gas-guzzlers. Competition may give us what we want, but does it really give us what we need?

“[T]he only real vehicular ‘need’ that most customers have,” observes Lutz, deriding the bean counter’s obsession with market research, “is easily fulfilled by a two-year-old used car…everything else is psychology and ‘wants’…‘consumer turn-ons’ that research alone won’t find.”

As for Ryan and Jethá, they whip out the research-heavy artillery—anthropology, neurology, behavioral psychology, paleo-archeology, primatology—to pinpoint our turn-ons and prove that monogamy is unnatural.

Monogamy goes against some of our instincts. We needn’t drag in bonobos to prove it. Tammy Wynette knew it already—though it is certainly worth repeating: “Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman/Giving all your love to just one man.”

But isn’t the beauty of this particular group-living primate that it can transcend nature, adapt to any condition, and take another’s fur if it gets too cold?

“In the early years of the new century, GM was cash-poor and wanted out of the then moribund Fiat. The latter played its card well: it cost GM $2 billion for the divorce,” writes Lutz.

“Is abandonment of one’s family,” ask Ryan and Jethá, “the ‘adult’ option for dealing with the inherent conflict between socially sanctioned romantic ideals and the inconvenient truth of human passion?”

If we’re going to talk of “the inconvenient truth of human passion,” we’d better turn to literature.

In Missouri motels at night, I read Sacher-Masoch. For him, the Golden Age was in ancient Greece when naked nymphs roamed free, “desire followed the glance, and pleasure followed desire.”

In our chilly northern climes, Venus must wear sable to survive and wield a whip to get what she wants. “Is there any greater cruelty for the lover than the beloved woman’s infidelity?” the dilettante Severin asks her in Venus in Furs.

Yes, there is. But that brings us to the question of power. We all need and want masters; but, sanctioned or not by those with master’s degrees, let us not be the slaves to received ideas.

Emporia, KS is home to the biggest producer of windshield ice-scrapers in the United States, which does not mean that it is home to the world’s biggest windshield ice-scraper factories. Those are in China and Ciudad Juarez.

But does America’s decrease in industrial output necessarily mean her loss of power?

A woman’s power is her ability to attract. America still does that, doesn’t she? She’s still pretty and still pretty powerful. She’s merely fickle, as beautiful women can be, shifting her favors from one industry to another. She used to bank on industrial horsepower; now she spurs on the banks.

When a wanton lady shifts her favors, only egos get bruised. When Congress does, it can lead to crisis.

In sex we want the crisis. It leaves us spent, but for most that’s where the greatest pleasure lies. In finance the crisis can come from over-spending. Though no one claims to want it, for a few that’s where the greatest profit lies.



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