No, the Things That Make us Americans Are the Things We Think
This commercial asks the consumer to regard the facts that Chrysler is a US-based company, and the Jeep in particular has played an exceptional role in American history, and that it is a physical object, as essential when they are not. It ignores the facts that today virtually all automobile companies are owned, regardless of where they operate from, by people from all over the world, that the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee is virtually indistinguishable in terms of quality from the similar products of it’s foreign-based competitors (which are increasingly being manufactured in the US anyways), and that while the production of physical objects cannot help but be objectively creative, it does not follow that other endeavors are automatically not.
Ostensibly, this commercial is asking the question “why don’t Americans make things?” and then answering it with “there has never been anything stopping us.” But what it is really doing is attempting to cultivate, and then profit from, the exact same type of concrete-bound thinking which caused the things that actually are stopping us from being able to make things.
When labor unions demanded that their members be paid at levels multiples times what company managers evaluated them to be worth, the justification for this demand was that because these workers are spending as much time at work as their bosses, there is no reason they shouldn’t be paid the same too. Law makers and voters were asked to ignore the fact that what makes the worker’s job worth doing to him is the imminently more valuable mental labor being performed by his boss. When American companies (read: American citizens) were required to provide the basic necessities of life to other, needy Americans, the justification was that every American has a basic right to life, liberty, and happiness. The imposed upon were asked to ignore the the fact that their own lives, liberties, and happiness was being curtailed in order to meet this demand. Both of these facts made it uneconomical to continue to make things in the United States.
When American companies told their customers that the products they bought were employing people in destitute countries, the justification was that in doing our manual labor we were helping them grow in exchange for them freeing our time to pursue other things. The American public, deeply respectful of honest labor and trade, were asked to ignore the fact that much of the wealth they were sending these countries wasn’t going to the people who were producing the products we buy, but to their political masters. When the American people grew accustomed to having an ever-increasing standard of living, while needing to put in less and less time and effort to have it, the justification was that the things they were doing were just more productive. They asked each other to ignore the massive financial distortions, strained international relations, and decreasing cultural standards making it possible. Both of these facts made it uneconomical to think about anything too deeply.
Which is why Chrysler knew this commercial would be appealing.
The problem with this commercial is that it’s passing itself off as unpretentious and honest when in actuality it is making a caricature of what it’s trying to celebrate. America – a political organization – was not great because it built things. It built things because it was a great political organization. It could have done other things with it’s greatness and still be great – as so many of it’s citizens believe, or at least are trying to get others to believe, that that is what is happening now – but that is not why it stopped manufacturing things. This commercial is pretending to attack the “needless decision” to stop when in reality it is a perfect example of the kind of thinking that is making real, objectively-valuable, mutually-beneficial work increasingly impossible. The Jeep was never great because it’s American. It’s American because it was great. Americans took winning wars and getting to their summer homes on the lake seriously – and would not tolerate something that only looked the part but could not do the job. Although built in America by an American company, the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee – with it’s on-road performance despite it’s off-road mystique, and it’s manipulative marketing despite it’s straight-forward pretentions – is no longer great. And, for that reason, it is no longer American.