A decade ago, the new car was purchased. It was a triumph of scientific engineering, using all the principles that people knew to be good and well.
“It uses Ironic Prediction,” the salesman said. “Whatever you think is normal and right, it does the opposite, because life is just not how it appears.”
The family took it home. It was an odd car, with multiple engines in strange compartments, odd utilitarian seating, and styling that was a cross between art deco and a concrete box. But no mind: it was new, and the envy of all the neighbors, and besides, there might be something to this scientific ironism thing.
As days went by, the family praised the car. Unlike their past car which was fast and dangerous, the new vehicle never made hasty moves. In fact, it was difficult to steer at all, so generally the best path was to find a simple route to wherever you needed to go. They spent more time walking to and from parking lots far from their objective, but the family rationalized this as good exercise producing good health.
Glitches arrived with age. After the first six months, the father noticed that the car was making a knocking sound. He took it in to the repair shop. The mechanic called him a few hours later.
“The exhaust system had troubles, so we re-routed it through the cabin. No more knocking noise.”
Now the family drove everywhere, even in the depth of winter, with windows open as exhaust spewed out from the vents under their seats. It got to the point that the car went in again to the shop.
“Well — I can make the exhaust go elsewhere, but it is a little bit expensive…”
So they paid. They needed a car, and it was the pride of the neighborhood, so they shelled out almost the cost of the car again to have a new radiant exhaust system put in. Now wherever they want, the car blasted exhaust in all directions, so that they arrived in a cloud of smoke.
This kept the peace for almost four more years. Then one day the knocking was back, as if there were a prisoner in a cellar under the car. The mechanic lifted the hood.
“Eeeyugh,” he said. “A tough problem. I have a workaround.”
When the car came back, it was wrapped in rubber tubing. The new cooling system worked by chilling alcohol and pumping it through the engine, then up to a radiator on the roof. They could not open two of the doors and the car had lost all aerodynamic properties, but that was fine as it did not go fast anyway, which was what they liked about it.
“Finally fixed, so we have more time for work and play,” said the father gaily.
Barely another year had passed before the wheels fell off. As the tow truck pulled away, the father viewed the mechanic — the only one around for hours — warily.
“I can fix this, but it is not expensive.”
When the car came back, the children burst out laughing. The rear wheels had been replaced by several dozen roller skates. The front wheels on the other hand were made out of cast iron.
“It certainly looks like the latest scientific enhancements,” said the mother hopefully. They had moved from their nice suburban home to an apartment so that they could keep up the payments on the car fixes.
Finally normal life could return! The car, in a cloud of smoke and the grating noise of iron wheels, never arrived anywhere fast and was impossible to park because the steering was erratic, since they had replaced the wheel and brakes with a theremin six months previous.
Most of what brought the normalcy back was that they had worked around the car. Since they had no money, they no longer went out to restaurants. The children rode their bikes everywhere so that they did not have to be in the smoky, unstable car. The father found that walking to work, an hour each way, was much easier than struggling with the temperamental steering system.
But some places required a car. So they all got in what had once been their pride, and hustled off in a shuddering wall of noise and the grinding sound of roller skate wheels. One day, just as they had purchased their groceries for the month, the car simply failed to start.
And so they paid. Paid for the taxi ride home with all their groceries, melting in the heat. Paid for the tow truck. Paid for the repair shop to take a look.
Then: “The drivetrain needs an overhaul. It is still designed with too much conventional wisdom. We need something unexpected, a flair of the human…”
When the car came back from the shop, the family was too tired of the process to even laugh. Now it had a giant contraption like a salad shooter mounted on the hood. It rotated as they drove, casting brightly colored lights over the walls of nearby buildings. The only difficulty was that to see around it, the father had to lean his head out the window, which caused him to constantly have an aching neck and back, in addition to being barely able to steer the car.
At this point, they used the car only on official holidays. Otherwise, it was just too troublesome, and it always ended up costing them money. “Stay away from the verdammt horseless carriage!” the father said. “Too much modern progress can kill you.”
Unfortunately, they still needed to use it on some occasions. When the eldest son got married, they drove up to the church in a cloud of smoke, grinding wheel noise and carnival aura of multicolored lights. But when it was time for the couple to leave, the car refused to start.
“No problem, we can walk. It is only a few dozen miles,” said the son, his bride enthusiastically agreeing. No one wanted to be the first to criticize the car which had been the pride of the neighborhood now for some years.
The father went back to the shop, feeling much older than he was. “What now?” he said simply.
The mechanic poked around inside the engine compartment, then looked under the car, checking fluids and fiddling with bolts. “The problem is that its design is still too much, begging your pardon sir, natural. We must re-align every part of the car on a grid, and give each one equal importance.”
The father looked down at his old shoes, patched pants, and thin wallet. “No,” he said simply.
“You must,” said the mechanic. “You have put so much money and years into this already, and everyone knows, it is the only right way.”
“No,” said the father again.
When he got home to his wife, he said, “We are not the pride of the neighborhood anymore. I sold the car. Maybe we can just have a normal life.”
“Good,” she said. “That Enlightenment™ thing never worked for us anyway, no matter how many times we patched it up.”
The history of modern humanity can be summarized thus: an Idea was introduced that seemed profound because it was not real. No matter how many modifications we made to it, it did not work, even though it flattered us.
In the process, we found that those who spoke against the Idea — despite their lack of being 100% good heroes much of the time — were right, and we denied them. The American Nativists, Anders Breivik, Adolf Hitler, The Ku Klux Klan, Ted Kaczynski, Varg Vikernes, the John Birch Society, Enoch Powell: they were right all along, even if they did some bad things as well.
Equality does not work. The Enlightenment™ is dead. Long live the naturalistic future.