We make some of our greatest gains
when we see old things in new ways
No doubt you've heard the expression: "Big as a Buick" and indeed the Buick was big ... at least until the manufacturers noticed their market share getting small. But don't kid yourself. Even with cars now a few feet shorter and maybe a ton lighter, the notion that bigger is better still remains strong. How else can you explain trying to maneuver an SUV designed to carry troops into battle into a parking space at Ralphs? I know you're thinking they'll hold up better in an accident. And, to be honest, that's a good thing. Especially since, providing such an easy target, they're more apt to be involved in one.
Bigger cars are, of course, more comfortable for bigger people and here again there's an assumption of bigger being better. With the exception of Adams and maybe Carter, can you name an American president who was below average in height? Living in an age when pushing a button will wipe out a city, why is there still the perception that it's best to have some bruiser in charge? And now that genetic engineering is close to making designer offspring a viable option, it's been predicted that parents will line up to place orders for bigger kids.
Would you be surprised to learn that more compact people, in terms of height and weight, tend to be healthier and live longer than their economy sized neighbors? Smaller people also fit better into airplane seats and create much less of a nuisance in general when trying to crowd into an already crowded world.
Then there's the bigger is better price tag. Take the line of Mont Blanc writing instruments for example. I would say pens and pencils but at hundreds of dollars a clip the manufacturer's use of "writing instruments" somehow seems more appropriate. It's as if, in a pinch, they might also be used for open-heart surgery.
Anyway, it so happens that I own one of each (a pen instrument and a pencil instrument), and I must say that I do indeed find them superbly suited to their task. But you must understand that their task has nothing to do with putting words to paper. It's to do with impressing the hell out of everybody watching you do so. In true potlatch form, most people will naively assume that anyone who can cough up 500 bucks to write something just must know what he's writing. The same may be said for the $175 necktie and the $8,900 wristwatch.
Clearly my neck and wrist have to be a whole lot better than your neck and wrist.
Driving down the Las Vegas Strip the other day, I spotted a sign that said 22 OZ STEAK. It didn't say anything about its brand or cut or preparation or (especially worrisome because of its absence) the price of this behemoth beef. All it said was 22 OZ STEAK. But this is nothing new. Americans will line up at places where the cheesecake is served in foot high slabs.
The fact that attempting to wrap yourself around such a feed can prove hazardous in better-left-unrealized ways is of no consequence. And when I question the wisdom of paying big bills for big portions of what is typically mediocre food, I always get the same response - "But you can take what you don't eat home".
So popular is this rationalization that some restaurants now train their servers in the table-side creation of tinfoil art. Those vaguely disreputable doggy bags of old have been replaced by gleaming, sculpture-like aluminum wrap swans brimming with ... the same half-eaten food. Served at home the next day, bigger/better is nothing more than high priced leftovers.
Another shining example of the bigger/better movement just has to be government. I would tell you the percent of people employed by local, state and federal agencies ... but you wouldn't believe me. Then too, why do these people have to turn out so many laws for the same offense? If you can be stopped for reckless driving, why do we need a law for speeding ... and drunk driving ... and illegal U turns? And if there's a law against vandalism (spray painting your name on a building), why do we need one for hate crimes (spray painting a swastika on a synagogue)?
I realize these different laws relate to different levels of offense, but who doesn't know that? Assault, for example, covers everything from giving your neighbor a shove, to beating the stuffing out of him with a stick. Judges and juries should either know the difference or not be judges and juries.
On the other hand, where's a #!%#@ law when you need one? The enormous number of people in the government simply means that even the dopiest contingent is going to have a voice. I say this because, as should be obvious to anyone over the age of eight, there simply aren't that many people intelligent enough to run a country. So we get laws that make it mandatory to wear a stupid looking summer squash on your head when peddling a bike across the street, but nothing to keep unwashed vagrants from polluting that same street with their cardboard bedrooms.
Now let's see if I got this straight - a guy smoking in a bar is a threat to society, but a guy living in a box with no running water is exercising his democratic right to stink up the block. A reason the Founding Fathers could not possibly have anticipated such nonsense is because they made up a small percent of a small population. Whenever I hear people ask how things like Columbine High and Waco could possibly have happened, I realize they have no concept of a normal distribution. The bigger the population, the greater the number of really scary people to the far left and far right of center.
So that brings me to my final anti-big rant. Have you heard about the population explosion? One lady has a bunch of babies and she's a saint. Another drowns hers and she's a devil. Seems to me they just evened things out. But if you object to my math, tell me half a dozen global problems that wouldn't be made better if half the people didn't wake up tomorrow? Pollution and power shortages, deforestation and greenhouse warming, famines, plagues and border wars, decaying cities and failing infrastructures have the same root cause. Here in California, local newscasters have taken to calling freeway tie-ups the result of TMC - Too Many Cars. A more accurate label would be TMP - Too Many People.
A while back I attended a Department of Transportation meeting. They had all kinds of charts and graphs showing that while gridlock was bad now, it would come to a complete halt in ten years. Their solution: more freeways. My solution: forget it. I pointed out that additional construction would merely delay the inevitable. Let commuters sit in their cars for six hours and they'll start thinking about car pooling, public transportation, cottage industries and moving to Oregon. My solution was not even considered. Maybe in ten years...
Look At It This Way
Bigger is not better (except in rare instances like check book balances and servings of scotch), and bigger is especially bad when it comes to population. Making a bad situation even worse is that as the numbers grow they disproportionately favor the lowest common denominator. Bright people curb their reproductive tendencies while dummies keep making more dummies. But don't raise a problem unless you have a solution. I do ... and it's simplicity itself. Just implant long acting contraceptives into all adolescents. Such drugs are already available, but can be improved with funding taken from road construction, school construction, and other chase your-tail-projects we'll no longer need. When adults demonstrate their ability to successfully and independently raise any offspring, remove the implant. But you don't like my idea? No matter. Four horsemen are on the way with a few plans you're just gonna love.
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