Archive for the ‘Durable Goods’ Category
What does the phrase “It’s a German luxury sedan, but it’s still an Audi” mean? What does owning a German luxury sedan imply? How does owning one that’s an Audi make that implication not applicable? The first part of the phrase, “It’s a German luxury sedan…”, is an expression of the notion that, normatively, in order to acquire wealth, one has to forego morality. The second part, “…but it’s still an Audi”, is a way of claiming that even though one has acted immorally (and is therefore able to afford a German luxury sedan), one’s soul is still salvageable (ie: One is still able to atone for one’s guilt, through intentionally selfless acts, and the fact that one prefers an Audi is somehow proof of having retained this capacity. That one has at least not become selfish in spirit).
Why would such an absurd claim – that a preference for Audis or a preference for other German luxury brands indicates the state of a person’s soul – be expected by this commercial’s writers to work? It has to do with the fact that most people believe in the moral-practical dichotomy, and therefore allow themselves to engage in a degree of (at least what they believe to be is) immoral behavior. Because most people believe that moral imperfection is unavoidable, the question they ask themselves is not if one should be immoral, but simply by how much. How is one to determine how much? In such a cynical view of morality, where nature is held to necessarily lead man into contradiction, there is no objective standard to appeal to, so the only way to answer it is… arbitrarily. Randomly. Completely by whim. Why not, then, decide that a preference for Audi’s luxury sedans – rather than for Mercedes’ or BMW’s – indicates that one is still morally salvageable? It’s as good a measuring stick as anything else. The claim that the cut-off point for irredeemable evil is not merely the evil of having come to be able to afford a German luxury sedan, but rather to desire to own one that isn’t an Audi, is clearly capricious – but according to the cynical view of morality held by most people, that isn’t a problem.
This commercial conflates altruism with benevolence. The purpose of that conflation is to ameliorate whatever moral guilt a person who can afford a German luxury sedan likely feels as a result of his wealth. Subconsciously, such a person feels no guilt – which is why he has a personality that is able to consistently act towards the selfish goal of becoming wealthy – and therefore whatever “altruistic tendencies” he might have are actually just benevolence; but consciously (ie: upon reflection) he feels plenty.
The attitude featured in this commercial is not selflessness. Instead, it is the positive, open, benevolent attitude which – contrary to the doctrine of altruism – is actually only possible to the truly selfish person. Nothing that the man in this commercial does is necessarily self-sacrificial. Each action could be – and actually often is – in a man’s rational self-interest. Simply because the actions seem blatantly selfless (and certainly can be) – and therefore flatter an altruist’s conscious convictions – doesn’t necessarily make them so. Even the subconsciously (ie: spiritually)-selfish, but consciously-selfless upholder of altruism senses this – and that’s precisely what bothers him. He worries that he may be selfish in spirit. Audi, with this commercial, is attempting to exploit that worry.
Because, in practice, benevolent acts are so often identical to altruistic acts, it is impossible for someone who consciously holds altruism as the moral ideal to know which motivation is causing his actions. There simply is no distinguishing factor. This commercial says that there is. What is it? It isn’t one’s motivation, but rather simply which brand of German luxury sedan one prefers. If one prefers another brand, then one is selfish in spirit (and therefore he will be completely unable to curtail his predatory tendencies – as dramatized by the BWM-driving person* who doesn’t just decline to pay a stranger’s toll, or stop to give directions, or yield the right of way, but who also fails to slow down for a puddle, and in doing so actively harms others by getting them wet). If one prefers an Audi, however, then one automatically knows that one is selfless in spirit. That preference tells one what one’s true motivation for doing such things is (ie: self-sacrifice, not benevolence). This absurd claim – that a preference for a particular brand of luxury sedan indicates motivation (let alone contradicts evidence to the contrary) – is only meant to appear to be absurd. In truth, precisely because it is so absurd, it is expected to work. Because “some explanation is better than no explanation” [a common, if unspoken, sentiment], it will finally give people who want to be altruistic – but who know they are merely benevolent – “proof” that their behavior has been altruistic all along. A sense of moral uprightness is a fundamental human need, and is therefore profoundly gratifying when experienced. Audi, with this commercial, hopes that by providing the viewer with it, the company will endear itself to the viewer.
If they skimped on a few other things, virtually every middle-class American could afford (or at least qualify to finance) a brand new Cadillac Escalade. In other words: a Cadillac Escalade isn’t what an Egyptian pharoh, or an Indian maharaja, or an English King would ride in. Why, then, attempt to sell it as such?
The reason is because this commercial isn’t targeting people who would have to skimp in order to drive an Escalade. It’s targeting those are (slightly) better off than the average American. Those who wouldn’t have to skimp. This begs a question, however: why would such people feel complimented by being compared to various types of historical rulers? This is America, after all. An (ostensible) meritocracy. If anything, wouldn’t such accomplished people be (slightly) more likely to feel insulted by the comparison?
The reason why they will feel complimented is because in today’s economy, the way to get ahead isn’t to be objectively more productive, but simply to be more willing to benefit from the use of physical force. To be both innocent and guilty in regards to “tyrant-like behavior”, but to be more guilty than innocent.
The purpose of this commercial is to make the type of behavior that was the hallmark of historical tyrants feel acceptable. By providing the excuse that “it’s been like that forever” (and therefore somehow it’s okay now too), as well as the rationalization that if they didn’t do it to others, others would do it to them (so why not them?), Cadillac gives people who – despite all of the trappings that their “success” brings them – would otherwise feel miserable, a way to feel good for a moment (and thereby hopefully endear Cadillac – instead of Lincoln or Lexus or whatever – to them).
Even though it is laughably pathetic that someone could be so twisted that they truly think that their (slightly) greater wealth is of historical proportions, it is truly bone-chilling to see that evidently enough of the upper middle-class American populace has been more guilty than innocent for enough time now that, psychologically, they identify with pharohs and maharajas and kings, instead of with inventors, industrialists, and even their economically-inferior coworkers and employees (who, economically and morally, are just like they are, and are no threat – even if they’re not as well-performing).
This is yet another example of “evasion through hyperbole” – a phenomenon well documented on this blog. Succinctly, this commercial works precisely because it conceals itself behind the premise that no – or at least few – men actually do such things (and therefore deserve to be laughed at, and therefore this is just harmless humor), and yet at the same time that very concealment allows the vast majority of men who actually do such things (albeit not so blatantly) to think that they don’t.
Obviously this man is taking advantage of that woman. He is gaining something from her (higher esteeem for him) that he doesn’t deserve (because isn’t actually the one doing the chore of picking out the furniture). The appeal of the commercial is the rationalization: “Well I don’t to that, so therefore I don’t do anything like that. That isn’t what my relationship is based upon.”
Communism/socialism is the doctrine that all people are entitled to an equal (or at least adequate) share of a nation’s wealth, regardless of the degree of their contribution to the creation of that wealth. In practice, because it ignores basic economic principles, this doctrine results in dictatorship – which means that the only things which are ever actually “equalized” are the various petty details of one’s life (what kind of light bulb he can purchase, how many viewpoints he is allowed to be exposed to, what kind of haircut he can have). As Western culture continues to become more communist/socialist, Westerners – correctly – sense that their individuality is being threatened. The result is an emotion-based rebellion. People begin to cling to anything and everything that is “theirs” – no matter how irrational and self-destructive – simply because they fear if they don’t, then they have surrendered the battle for their independence, identity, and freedom.
Women, for whatever reason, are especially prone to this type of existentialism – and therefore the key to romantic success with them is to flatter it (even if you think it is wrong). In other words: to gain her approval (by making her believe that she has yours) even though you don’t deserve it (because she doesn’t actually have yours). This is simply a more subtle – although pervasive – form of exactly the same thing that is dramatized in this commercial. It’s exactly the sort of thing that this commercial is intended to help the viewer evade (so that he will have a moment’s pleasant reprieve from the self-contempt he feels as a result of his willingness to be stupid, and therefore – hopefully, from Ikea’s perspective – think of Ikea the next time he feels that contempt as a result of yet again being fake).
There is nothing wrong with this commercial. It fulfills it’s primary purpose – informing the consumer about the product – as well as successfully entertains her in a positive way. The humor of the commercial, obviously, is the frustration rational, responsible, self-supporting people feel towards those who are irrational, directionless, and loafing in nature. The irrational person is technically in breech of his agreement to “pull his own weight”, so unilateral action on the part of the rational person is perfectly justified (which would technically make destroying the video game system just, provided it is commensurate with the offense as well as effective). The solution isn’t to destroy another person’s property, obviously – since such an action wouldn’t be commensurate with the offense nor effective – but to laugh about the idea is perfectly acceptable. It is a celebration of rational people’s habituated sense of fair play and justice, as well as their (righteous) scorn towards those who have no meaning or purpose in life.
It is all too rare, these days, to see a commercial that speaks to the best within people, and for that reason alone it is very refreshing.
This commercial is identical in it’s philosophical underpinnings to this commercial, so the following is simply a (customized) restatement of it’s analysis.
Even if this particular Fiat did not have have four doors, and even if these two men, here, knew that it didn’t, it still would not make their reactions appropriate. Their reactions are far too detached from the (overwhelming, albeit unusual) sensory evidence they’re receiving to rationally doubt the legitimacy of the “mirage” they’ve encountered. That level of skeptical detachment would only be appropriate had they perceived the mirage from a great distance, for example. What, then, is the comedic value of having them react as such? What is the object of the humor?
By equating an ignorance of the fact that there actually are four-door cars made by Fiat (as opposed to just two-door models) with a psychological imbalance that produces disproportionately skeptical and detached reactions to stimuli, the commercial is poking fun at a particular type of psycho-epistemology. Specifically, the conceptual type. A person who characteristically conceptualizes (ie: integrates) his experiences into usable (“actionable”) knowledge has a conceptual psycho-epistemology. Why would anyone want to poke fun at that?
The reason is because in today’s cultural atmosphere, there are many, many people who regard integration of any kind – integration as such – as presumptuous and counter-productive. They are who this commercial is targeted at (because, not coincidentally, many of them are urbanites. The type for whom a Fiat would be practical and stylish). Such people observe the fact that knowledge can be limited (ie: contextual – ie: always qualified with the implicit caveat “to the extent of my knowledge”), and conclude that knowledge as such is useless (which, in this particular instance, is highly ironic since it is the skeptical psycho-epistemology that they are seemingly attacking, in an attempt to flatter it). But is knowledge as such useless?
Consider, for example, someone raised in a small, all-white town in rural America. Someone who has never seen a non-white person before, and – if he has ever even heard of the existence of non-white people – been told negative things about them by the people he interacts with. Is this person’s negative reaction to the first non-white person he encounters inappropriate? It may certainly be unjust – the non-white person may very well be a worthwhile individual deserving of good will – but would that be the fault of the person who had the reaction? To his knowledge, such people didn’t exist – so when he encounters one it would actually be reasonable to react with suspicion and guardedness (just as one would react to the sight of a strange insect on one’s front porch). Or, if his knowledge extends to what others have told him about non-white people, and his reaction is outwardly hostile, would that not be reasonable also? The other people in his life have shown themselves to be trustworthy and objective about most other, simpler things (eg: the trash really was taken out, the tractor really does only need an oil change, etc), so would he have any reason to suspect them of dishonesty or poor judgment in this issue? They certainly are guilty of such things, but he doesn’t know that (and to suspect, without evidence, that they are is unreasonable).
Limited knowledge does not imply presumption – and it doesn’t even imply uncertainty. To the extent that someone can be reasonably excused for not knowing a given particular fact about reality (eg: that there are Fiats which have four doors), even if he is wrong, he is “certain.” Not certain in the literal (ie: meaningless) sense, but in the epistemological sense. Certainty does not require omniscience, it simply requires a rational process of thought. Provided that his conclusion is capable of being amended (without contradiction) in the presence of new evidence (as opposed to being arbitrary, and therefore incapable of being affected by evidence – even if the pronouncement happens to be literally true), there’s nothing wrong with living as if what he has concluded is true (because, as far as he knows, it is). Even with it’s vulnerabilities, that is a far, far far more effective way to go through life than operating under the “thoughtful” premise that each and every particular thing is a unique and unprecedented event (which, ironically, is a conceptual integration itself – so the people who do believe this principle are committing the fallacy of self-exclusion).
Many people in contemporary society have only been exposed to the arbitrary passed off as certainty. They have then concluded that certainty is impossible, and sneer at any pronouncements or demonstrations of it. Because this commercial is such a sneer, it provides them with yet another outlet for their contempt (which may have been righteous at one point, but has now morphed into an all-encompassing, cynical skepticism – which is just as destructive as the method of “thinking” that they despise), and in the process (hopefully, from the advertiser’s perspective) endears Fiat the car brand to them in a way that (apparently) the objective merits of the car never could (four doors notwithstanding).* It makes them feel as though the people of Fiat are “their kind of people.”
*Of course, it could be argued that the central message of the commercial is that there is now a Fiat which has four doors (ie: that it’s a presentation of one of the product’s objective merits, and therefore a legitimate advertisement) – but that presupposes that the people who would find that feature appealing don’t already know about it. Of course they already know about it, because by the nature of their psycho-epistemology necessitates that such things are always a possibility (even if the redesign, let alone mass production, of an automobile is a major, long-term industrial undertaking). Such people would never think to themselves “I wish Fiat made a four door car”, and then only consider the possibility of buying one that had four doors after they’ve had the “presumption” that none do corrected. Instead, they would think to themselves “I wish I had a Fiat that had four doors – and even though I’ve never seen one or heard of one, there there well very could be one out there (just as there could be one with one door, or eight doors, of 10,000 doors)”, and then proceed to go – blindly – to find one to purchase; never having seen this commercial. No, all this commercial boils down to is attempt to flatter people for being “honest” about the “limits of human reason”, and thereby seduce them into purchasing the particular four door car produced by Fiat.
The first commercial is representative of Minwax’ long-standing advertising style. They have, for at least a few years now, produced a number of commercials that are virtually identical to that one. If people think of Minwax commercials, it is commercials like it which they think of. The company knows this, so the second and third commercials are the brand’s most recent productions. These commercials are a (self) mockery of the earlier commercials. These commercials “explain” the pride which is shown in the earlier commercials by “revealing” that it is really a symptom of neurosis. By showing the people to be irrationally proud of their projects (which is what accosting complete strangers, and others who are clearly preoccupied, undoubtedly shows), Minwax is insinuating that there is no such thing as a rational pride in one’s work. By making fun of themselves – by now claiming that pride is something to be ashamed of – they are apologizing for claiming the opposite in their earlier commercials. They are letting everyone know that they’ve “seen the light”, so to speak.
Most of the today’s public is, at best, afraid of showing themselves to be innocent or genuine or proud in even the slightest degree (for fear of being labeled naive or pretentious or arrogant) – and at worst they are the cynical and nihilistic creatures who would make such accusations (creatures who hate the good for being the good). Because of this, Minwax cannot get it’s message to register with a wide enough audience by simply complimenting the innocent, genuine, and proud in people. Instead it must pander to the fearful and/or cynical within them, count on the fact that those emotions will be more frequently excited in today’s culture, hope that the experience of having those emotions touched (by viewing the recent commercials) will be intense enough to associate Minwax with experiencing them (the next time it happens), and in doing so remind the consumer about the product’s existence (should he also just so happen to be in the market for wood coatings).
Why would a brand of something as innocuous as wood coatings resort to such tactics? Why would they court disaster by pandering to the worst within people when, in the long run, it is the best within them that will be necessary to continue to desire to do something as straight-forward and innocent as home improvement projects? It is because in today’s semi-free, semi-controlled mixed economy there isn’t necessarily such a thing as “the long run.” When everyone’s economic interests are as much at the mercy of the whims of a relative few central planners – instead of the timeless, immutable laws of economics – all any company can do is decide to do whatever it can – no matter how dishonorable – to get as much as it can, as quick as it can. Such is the nature of today’s “capitalism.”
Maserati, with it’s new Ghibli, is choosing to take on a new set of competitors. The Ghibli is cheaper than it’s previous cars, so instead of exclusively competing with the likes of Lamborghini and Ferrari, they will also be competing with Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, Porsche, etc. There’s nothing wrong with expansion and diversification, of course, but it’s not as if the company’s previous absence in this particular market constituted oppression by the “giants” who were already there. Furthermore, even if they had been there, no one has a right to customers, first of all, so even if they had been in that market and had been getting beaten it wouldn’t constitute “oppression.”
All this commercial is meant to do is to pander to popular, Marxist ideas about economics (that it’s a zero-sum game, a struggle between opposing forces) in order to ensure that just as many rich liberals buy it’s car as rich conservatives do.