I was looking at the shelf with my blooming orchids the other day and, captivated by their beauty, I was struck by a series of thoughts. Thinking is apparently very good for you but whenever I engage in this activity, it tends to result in reflections that are perhaps best not considered. Anyway, the following is a summary of some of my ruminations…
In Poland Orchidea phalaenopsis is a plant which has been desired by generations of housewives. It has seemed important, nay, obligatory for a respectable homemaker to display an enviably blooming orchid on her window sill for passers-by to see. As it was symbolic of a certain level of affluence, underprivileged housewives would often buy a cheap plastic representation of this botanical phenomenon not to feel left out. So how is it that this fetching plant has been reduced to an object of utter banality? The answer is actually rather simple – the AVAILABILITY that stems from its ACCESSIBILITY.
Luxury items clearly have an appeal. They appeal to snobs and to other pretentious people. They tantalise and lure, especially now that the market economy encourages almost everyone to be acquisitive and enables a person’s previously unattainable dreams to become reality at the stretch of his/her arm fortified with a credit card. In the days of „live now pay later” for those short of a decent disposable income the need for instant gratification may require of them other financial strategies: for example, a quick bank loan with no guarantors and seemingly „no” strings attached.
The banks and other financial institutions have contributed in no small part to this trend and should therefore be held accountable for the recession and other related (usually family) disasters. Take the sickly TV adverts of perfect families who are getting a loan to buy their kids bikes or new play stations or themselves a new kitchen, or those that seek to deceive audiences that the delayed interest is never going to catch up with them; or even more so, the ads in which money is brought to a customer’s doorstep in return for only a trifling signature at the bottom of fifteen pages of small print that he or she is never going to read. People nevertheless take the bait. Life seems blissful. The lie passes unnoticed.
In this very way such items as PCs, iPods, flatscreens, sophisticated coffee makers, talking refrigerators, new cars and other luxury contrivances, together with many elaborate and cranky technological marvels, are made available for the customer to have… but at a price.
The price is inclusive not only of the dwindling market value of the quickly obsolete contraption but also of the dignity that one loses when trying to keep up with the Joneses. And also, inevitably, it involves the price of the financial consequences resulting from the inability to pay back the debt incurred.
To conclude this trail of thought, I ought to add that ACCESSIBILITY breeds desire, banality, financial problems, unnecessary competitiveness and a large amount of discontent. So what do you do when your neighbour shows off with his/her brand new Ferrari lawn mower or your workmate tantalizes you with a newly acquired the state-of-the-art iPad? Ignore it. And even if the overpowering temptation gets the better of you and you actually go and purchase some luxury item, keep it to yourself and don’t join the show-offs. If ever confronted by your neighbour or acquaintance asking your opinion about their acquisitions, don’t offer more than a benign congratulatory remark. And keep your own clichéd treasure well out of view where it is yours to admire and to use, your precious…
And it all started with orchids…
edited by Andrew Dixon