6 January 2009

Real Wealth is Slow

It has been a delight hearing Clive James on the Point of View slot on Sunday mornings. Ok, I'm showing my age now, because rather than razzing it up on Saturday night and lying in on Sunday morning I often catch not only this essay at 8.50 but actually also Something Understood at whatever horrendous time that is on.

Clive James had certainly understood something this week, in his essay called Get Rich Quick - still available from the BBC podcasts page. I don't expect Clive James to be on my political wavelength, and usually he isn't. I listen to him because he is witty and clever and has a rather pleasing Australian accent which is quite soothing of a Sunday morning.

His theme this week was a suitably new year one - the change in consciousness that the financial catastrophe has brought in its wake. He predicted that getting rich quick will cease to look smart and begin to look silly: 'Excess wealth is gone, like the codpiece.' His confidence in making this 'prediction' lay in the fact that, in reality, the change has already happened.

For me, this change is deeply reassuring. Not because I feel vindicated or less uncomfortable about my inability to deal with constantly changing fashions (or is that just total lack of interest?). It is more that I have felt so uneasy about the rampant conspicuous consumption of others. This feeling doesn't arise from inherent frugality, or judgementalism or even a concern for the ecological impossibility of it all. It's more a sense of deep disappointment that so many people have no conception of what really matters in life.

We are going to need those things in a big way this coming year. We are going to need to value comradeship and the kindness of strangers. The human resources on which Britain traditionally prides itself - communitarianism, courage, humour and stoicism - are going to be the character traits most in demand in 2009. And underpinning them all we are going to need a faith to replace the fear that swirls around the shopping malls where empty shopfronts are rapidly replacing hyperactive consumers.


  1. hear, hear molly!

    yes the "credit crunch" causes worry, fear and suffering, which is regrettable of course, but now at least the mainstream can see that capitalism is flawed, that the bankers have more in common with cockney rhyming slang than our day to day needs and that a new system (or rather an old system revisited) for fairer exchange is needed and something to be investigated, embraced or remain open-minded about.

    prior to "the crunch" business as usual and jumping on the materialist bandwagon meant most discussions of alternatives were mocked.

    and re clive james - i missed his transmission (no, i wasn't partying either) and also enjoy his melodious accent and his sense of humour and word play, having read his autobiographies in my youth and found them very compelling / enjoyable.

    happy new year/horizon


  2. Rational argument Molly, However, the meaning of life is not necessarily something I will ever understand, despite much intellectual energy expended in trying. On the other hand better understanding of the meaning of "Consciousness" that strange thing nature has endowed the human race with, may perhaps save us from destroying ourselves. So as the shame and blame of the system known as "capitalism" becomes more exposed by our current demise, I am less clear that any one system can be exclusively right or wrong. Yet again the human centric processes of power and greed are really at the heart of the global economic gloom. Materialism aside, even if we could come up with some genius system for equally dividing wealth, I suspect that mother earth would still find it difficult to cater for even the basic needs of a population too big for the resources available. This means that survival of the fittest still underpins much behaviour and until we as a race get smart at using the gift of "consciousness" to create a sustainable and fair society, then only the players rather than the game will change over time. Meanwhile like the majority of people, I continue trying to do my best for society and the environment. However our individual responsibility should also be reflected in the way we hold governments and the leaders of other organisations ACCOUNTABLE for their actions. It is really interesting that a "collective consciousness" is emerging in a virtual way through on-line communities and social networks. Not sure if anyone has figured out how to capture and use this collective consciousness in a powerful way to transform they way governments and institutions are held accountable for their actions. But I sense an adaptation that may well be evolutionary. So watch this space and of course all, others of the same elk.
    Ingrid Blades