Sunday, October 4, 2009

On the Internal Combustion Engine

This curious device, in its motor-car form, affords some pleasures, either minor and inferior, or druglike and obsessive. It may have some practical uses, though one suspects that these consist rather in alleviating problems whose radical cure lies elsewhere; and certainly from the supposed profits a multitude of new problems and disadvantages have to be deducted. But the motor-car is, essentially a mechanical toy that has run off the nursery-room floor into the street, where it is used as irresponsibly as before and much more dangerously. It is a dubious piece of ‘escape mechanism’. For of course it would not be made in ‘mass’ (which means that it would hardly be made at all), nor would millions be made out of its purchases, but for its invention at a time when we have made our towns horrible to live in—a process which it has itself accelerated. The motor-car attracts, because it enables people to live far away from their noisome and inhuman ‘works’, or to fly from their depressing dormitories to the ‘country’. But it cheats: for the motor-factories, and their subsidiaries (garages, repair-shops, and pumps), and the cars themselves, and their black and blasted roads, devour the ‘country’ like dragons. This is the splendid gift of a magician: he offers to a caged bird that has defiled its cage and perch—what? a little length of chain so that it can flap to a near-by twig and foul that. Magnificent! This is freedom! And the made the chain hundreds of the magician’s prisoners sweat like morlocks. This is Real Life . . .


--J.R.R. Tolkien

3 comments:

Michael said...

Note to readers who may care: I'm in the process of doing final (I hope) clean-up on my dissertation, trying to get ready to defend it before Christmas if possible. I spent much of this week doing 250 pages' worth of corrections and additions and general tidying (out of a total of around 450). Meanwhile posts from me may well slow down or stop until everything's done. On the bright side, when it's done I'll be doctor philosophiae and my posts will have lots more authority, so that'll be good.

Anonymous said...

Good to hear!

Will you be publishing your dissertation or, at the very least, excerpts from it?

Michael said...

I think I'd better wait until the defense and I see what reputable scholars (i.e. my committee) have to say before I think about publication.

If in the end there are no takers, it may end up cannibalized for blog posts!