Perhaps tops on the list of the "great culture war" that Bill O'Reilly and other religious right-wingers like to perpetuate for some reason (my personal theory is because it makes a convenient rally cry for the religious right) is this so-called "debate" in how modern American society is obsessed with instant gratification. To cut to the chase, I believe the whole "debate" is pure right-wing nonsense. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with trying to gratify oneself instantly within practical and ethical bounds - I would rather argue that the real "crisis" right-wingers expunge against relates more to a shortage of thought and foresight which are unrelated issues, but of course that doesn't nearly make for as neat a religiously-minded rally cry.
One of the things that brought about this is this stupid Hyundai commercial. Frankly, Hyundai commercials, like most car commercials, are rather stupid to begin with, but Hyundai has taken upon itself (or rather, the marketing company it hired, I suppose, to be more accurate - and I might as well insert here that I believe most marketing types clearly had their heads filled with mush in college) to reach a level of condescension unprecedented since 90s-ear Lexus commercials, and frankly a level of condescension Hyundai is really not deserving of (anyone here remember the Excel?)
I'm sure by now most of you have seen the commercial, and if not you may view it here - if you can get past the incredibly confusing interface. A man is driving along in his new Hyundai, griping about our instant-gratification-obsessed culture and how commitment is thrown to the wayside: "don't like your nose? Fix it. Don't like your job? Fix it. Don't like your marriage? Fix it. Whatever happened to commitment?" the driver laments. The overt message is supposed to be about Hyundai's extensive warranty coverage, but what's being spoken loud-and-clear is, while not offensive to liberal sensibilities, just flagrantly stupid and bereft of logic, and if nothing else I've heard enough of it from Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity and I really don't need to be bombarded with it in my car commercials now.
According to the commercial's hidden message, if I have a lousy job, I should stick with it. Maybe I am a bit sensitive to it because I am stuck with a lousy job for the time being. I guess I really am a small person if I actually have ambition and desire to move up to a better job with better pay and better benefits. No, no, Hyundai's right - I should stay committed to my miserable, go-nowhere job. Because at least I'll be satisfied with knowing that, yes, I'm committed. Committed to mediocrity and unhappiness, but at least I'm committed.
And I should stay committed to my unhappy, unworkable marriage, too. I'll wake up every morning and loathe the person I'm sleeping with, but hey, I'm committed to her, right? After all, if I divorce her, not only would I be breaking my commitment (gasp!), but, according to ole' Bill and Sean, I'll be adding to the downfall of our nation! That's what high divorce rates do, right? Right?
The high divorce rate and the whole issue of divorce is an illustration hanging the wrong way - people are staring at it sideways. The issue is not commitment, the issue is not instant vs. delayed gratification - it's about committing the foresight and careful thought before making a decision in the first place. Sadly, issues regarding proper relationships are often swept under the rug as politicians from both sides have mutated it to the "sexier" issue of sex - we debate endlessly about whether or not condoms or abstinence should rule the classroom sex discussions, but are disturbingly mum about how to teach children what a meaningful relationship actually means.
Of course, people will always make judgment errors. What' s the logical course of action to do in that case? It's the same course of action the Hyundai commercial rails against - we don't stick to it, we fix it. Being not only able to make mistakes but to fix our mistakes is frankly what makes humans, human. Stubbornly staying committed to a mistake is simply foolish, illogical, and to think that this is an advocated course of action is incomprehensible.
So I say to you, Hyundai, to get off your high horse. Not five years ago your cars rated consistently dead last in Motortrend and Car & Driver road tests. Customers were flocking to the used car lots to "fix" their Hyundai "commitments" in favor of Toyotas or even domestics. Their cars, through such iterations as the "Excel" and "Scoupe" gained a reputation for not being able to "commit" to not falling apart, a reputation they're still trying to shake off. In recent years, Hyundai has dramatically improved their product, but they're still no Honda or Toyota, and they still have a long way to prove that they're worth "committing" to. Being Korean myself, and with my folks looking into a new Santa Fe, it troubles me that Hyundai thinks they're entitled to such snobbery so soon, but if they remain "committed" to telling me what I can and cannot remain committed to, I think I'll personally remain committed to my bus pass.
SGH'S UPDATE: In the end, we, well, yeah, we bought the Hyundai. Two of them, in fact - the aforementioned Santa Fe and a Veracruz on top of that. And I must say these cars are amazing, and the pricing and financing we got from the dealership matches that sentiment. I can even drive around in them (relatively) guilt free because of the gas mileage we save. All I can say is just how impressed I am!
I'll also make another note that either I need to watch more TV, or it seems as if Hyundai has quietly dropped that advertising campaign. Their highly successful "Duh" campaign can be seen everywhere, but yesterday on a subprime timeslot on basic cable was the first time I've seen a "Think About It" commercial in more than a season.
Maybe that's something to think about.