Magazine article The Spectator

Philosophy Lesson

Magazine article The Spectator

Philosophy Lesson

Article excerpt

St Tropez

Summer is supposedly a time when you can leave behind the cares of the world, a vision of the good life, a hack-to-nature period after the barbarities of the city. In the South of France, as in other glitzy resorts, summer has nothing to do with nature; it has to do with performance, as in flaunting it. Summer is the time when you show what you're really worth and what you've earned screwing your fellow man. Yachts, private planes, houses, cars, staff, flunkies, hookers - they're all status symbols now, and consumption has replaced God as the ultimate power. You are what you spend, and if you spend enough you are somebody. As I still believe in the Almighty, God help us.

Mind you, whoever said that Hell-is-other-people sure got it right. In America's East Coast, summer is trying to keep certain people out; over here, it is trying to get certain rich and famous folk to join your party. Alain de Button, the pocket philosopher, claims material possessions are 'our quest for love from the world'. Alain de Botton is either a fool or he's playing mind games, and Alain is no fool. According to Botton, it is simply an inferiority complex. The disdain of others has pressured those who practise outrageous conspicuous consumption to try to impress the former. If you thought comedy was dead, read Alain. If this were true, those greedy slobs I've rubbed shoulders with these last couple of weeks had sand kicked in their faces when they were poor, ergo the showing off. Sorry, Alain, but this is even unworthy of Oprah.

The need for status is not a need for love but a need to step on your fellow man and have the audience cheer you for doing it. One thing I've noticed around these parts is how physically repulsive, brutish and short are most of those who have been pressured by the early disdain of their fellow man to act the way they do. There have been people with boats, planes and great houses before, but their behaviour matched their discretion and good manners. This here thing is getting out of hand. It is the triumph of greed and ugliness, the mother of bad taste and excess. And before anyone wonders what I'm doing here, I will cast the first stone. …

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