Monday, 15 December 2008

(Not) Learning to live better on less

A book that made a massive impression on me was "Living Better on Less". I came across it during the Age of the Yuppie and it played a (small) part in persuading me to take a vow of voluntary poverty - one I have kept.

When the economy really started to fall apart recently I thought: "This is my chance - my chance to write a sequel, perhaps with the title 'Living (Even) Better on (Even) Less.'" For a moment it seemed as if the crisis might prompt a kind of globalised soul-searching and lead to a fundamental change of values, with people not just resentfully trying to get by on a falling income but embracing the idea of actually living better on less, warming to the idea of, for instance, darning a few socks instead of immediately binning them and buying new ones. People, it seemed, would soon find a pleasure in not having to buy so much, and in not having to work so hard to buy so much that just ends up on the scrap heap. With a forced halt to over-consumption, wouldn't people inevitably sit down and rework their old, unthought assumptions about the Good Life?

But I have just heard on the BBC world business report that HMV reports that although its book sales are declining, the meltdown has had no effect whatsoever on sales of electronic games. Figures are also out from, which, apparently, is reporting that this will be its best festive season ever for sales. With this my hopes are dashed. Global soul searching and the hoped-for rethink of the Good Life would require a little more reading (not much, but enough to give booksellers a bit of a lift in these hard times). Instead, people are flocking to the bright, pixel-lit world of digital distraction to take their mind off things while the economy bottoms out.

Conclusion: Nothing will change and I will be wasting my time writing the above-mentioned sequel.

Unfortunately I do not remember any of the poem by Holderlin except the fragment "von Klippe zu Klippe", which appears in his description of a terrible waterfall cascading down a hillside and crashing horribly from one rocky ledge to another (if I remember the image correctly). What a perfect depiction of our failure to learn absolutely anything whatsoever from mistakes made in the past.

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