Good news is bad news; bad news is good news

In this economy, any way in which jobs are lost is a shame. On the other hand, it is pretty clear that this “great recession” has been both destructive and cleansing. It has not been kind to bad ideas and narcissistic indulgences. Jobs that were buoyed by lavish habits and idiocy were always at risk.

Hummer is bankrupt. The Hummer idea was always bankrupt; it just took awhile for its physical manifestation to drop off the cliff with it. Actually, it probably was never an actual idea. It may have been more of an observation: when fuel is cheap and wealth comes without effort, people will buy really stupid things.

If nothing else, the Hummer is stupid. It might have been pretty good as an open truck in a desert battlefield, but it’s nearly useless as a work truck: too high for hand loading and too hard to maneuver in real work situations. It’s not good for suburban human transport for the same reasons. Its bigness begets uselessness. It also must be the worst 4-wheel drive vehicle for actual 4-wheel drive situations. It’s too heavy, too wide and too unstable. I had an encounter with a caravan of Hummers on an old mining road in Moab, Utah. I was on a bike. I passed them about mid-day and then came upon them hours later after I doubled back to go back to town. They hadn’t gotten far because two of their vehicles had faltered, hung up, and were broken down. Like me, a similar caravan of Jeeps had driven around them, no doubt wondering as I had, if they knew how silly they looked with all that money and metal, but no useful vehicle; no common sense.

But the foolishness of the vehicle is only half defined by how useless it is; the real highlight is its fuel inefficiency. It had to have been made to maximize fuel consumption, or it wouldn’t be so bad. Its drivers say they average about 10 mpg, so we know it’s commonly much less. Because it has a gross vehicle weight rating over 8500 lbs, the US government does not require it to meet federal fuel efficiency regulations. Its excess was even subsidized through a business equipment deduction that many wealthy people used. The recent bankruptcy therefore ends a loophole in which excess-seeking people could essentially purchase a bigger hose to ensure that they get their fair share of the fossil fuel sucking binge.

Oh yes. Hummers are also ugly. It’s ugly like mutations are ugly; like bad manners are ugly. It’s like when the lack of consideration, refinement, scale and proportion are all mixed together, they will surely produce ugly. It’s an ugly that is far more than how it looks, because the very worst part is what it intentionally projects. What it means is, “I don’t care about the rest of you. I’m going to get mine.”

Therefore, except for the jobs that are lost in its downfall, I say good riddance to the Hummer. May its demise usher in a new era of sanity and improved attitudes.

But that’s about cars and everyone knows I don’t have much appreciation for cars, and that this blog is not about cars, so what’s my point?

It’s about McMansions. Everything I just said about Hummers is also true of huge, gaudy homes, which are widely known by that well-defining, sarcastic appellation. Although McMansions don’t have a singular aesthetic outcome, as Hummers do, we all know them when we see them.

McMansions are also bankrupt. It’s not in the news because no single builder is going down with the sinking McMansion ship. But for all intents and purposes, they are gone. Ask Toll Brothers.


Except for the jobs lost in the process, the loss of McMansion building is a very good thing.

Like Hummers, McMansions aren’t being built because they were always a stupid and wasteful idea.

Like Hummers, McMansions don’t perform their function well; they do it worse. They make comfort and security harder. It takes extra effort to live in them; and effort to support their daily demands.

Like Hummers, McMansions require very big hoses of energy; they suck it with profligate abandon.

Like Hummers, McMansions were made possible by easy financing and tax loopholes. In the real world, they are senseless.

Like Hummers, McMansions are ugly in that same out-of-scale and out-of-proportion way, and they also are ugly in that same mean-spirited way.

And so it is that good news is bad news when a better economy and lower fuel costs spawn human excesses that reveal the worst in us; and bad news is good news when tough times bring out our ability to be frugal and judicious.

If only good news generated as much wisdom as bad news, a sustainable world would be closer at hand.

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