Around this time last year I wrote an article for Optimistic Learner called “Slight and Spite: Salving the Stings of Social Exchange”, because this lady loves alliteration as much as neuroendocrinology and game theory damnit.
It was a practical piece, where I set spite up as the toxic cousin to altruism. The Enforcer. The Punisher for those trying to cheat the game. Or, “deliberately slowing your car down to teach that impatient driver behind you a lesson (even if it makes you late…it’s worth it)”.
But I’m flipping the game’s board. Because we have and we do benefit from spite.
Well, sometimes. On an individual level you do risk being bitter years after payback.
But as a society we have gained from the inventions of the creatively spiteful.
This toxic cousin is still part of the family. And yeah, their invite to the reunion might mean the cops get called, but they pummeled your grade school bully back in the day. So let’s not be too hasty in disowning them completely.
The Fast and the Furious
Enzo Ferrari manufactured some beautiful cars. And a whole lotta spite. In the late ‘50s tractor builder and former mechanic Ferruccio Lamborghini went to Enzo with a complaint about the clutch on his (very expensive) car. Enzo’s response? “You know how to drive a tractor, but you’ll never learn to drive a Ferrari”.
Lamborghini’s existence as a luxury car manufacturer was born not so much out of a love of the industry or even seeking wealth.
But to get revenge. His 350T model was sold at a loss so as to stay competitive with Ferrari.
Ferrari wasn’t done creating competitors. In the ‘60s Henry Ford II’s attempts at acquiring Ferrari were rebuffed.
Ferrari cited the company’s “suffocating bureaucracy”. This led to the creation of the Ford GT40.
The GT40 was designed to take Le Mans, one of the most prestigious automobile races in the world, but…