Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Great open spaces


About 100 years ago, Henry Ford said about his new Model T, “It will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”

I love this statement - the most economical statement of the American phenotype I've ever heard. And by a prototypic American besides.

Amazing how much of it is still true.

1. Low in price. What Ford invented is much greater than a car. His systems for manufacturing in essence sent America down her long endless path of consumerism. Thousands of particular things are so cheap that any particular person can buy them.
2. Man. Male bread-winning is assumed. While women have made tremendous advances, glass ceilings and boys' clubs and inequal wages still exist.
3. Good salary. Unfortunately, Ford might be turning over in his grave on this one. His benevolence was gutted by the capitalists, then saved by the unions, and now gutted by the capitalists again, such that factory workers now make a good salary only if unionized.
4. With his family. Still the American ideal, this notion of the family, at least in advertising and often, but perhaps not as often as before, in fact.
5. Hours of pleasure. Leisure is still precious here, still the reason for all that hard work, although I suspect that joy-riding has been overtaken by the joystick.
6. God's. The political polls, if little else, indicate that at least half of today's Americans believe in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
7 Great open spaces. The ultimate irony notwithstanding, i.e., Ford's invention will eventually overrun everything, great open spaces abound. Right here in Maine, the Great North Woods is a national treasure, the coves and bays and wide ocean heal our frantic lives, the lane in the woods out back teems with ideas and possibilities, none of which are human. The car may take us there, but perhaps we will retain enough of our senses to leave the vehicle at the gate and just walk into heaven.

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