"You will be met by a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce limousine and swept
away to a deluxe hideaway on four miles of romantically secluded white-sand
beach where you will relax in the lap of luxury…"
so they would have you believe, the bankers who finance the "developers" who pay
the flacks who write the travel brochures which display the flawless bodies of
mindless boys and girls doing impossible gymnastics on beaches gleaned of cigarette
In fact, those happy,
carefree boys and girls do not exist, nor do those beaches. They're just part
of the virtual reality created by astute publicists. For that matter, even if
those beaches did exist it wouldn't matter, because when you got there you would
still be you. You are, more than likely, the brunt of cruel jokes among the chauffeurs
of the limousines. They know, as you know, that you're not an Oriental potentate
nor a shipping magnate. They know, as you know, that you're a fraud in the back
of that chauffeur-driven limousine. Ah, if Mr. Rolls and Mr. Royce could see the
riff-raff which rides in the rear seats of their limousines today they might reconsider
the project they launched together one day at the Midland Hotel in Manchester.
times the Rolls Royce was reserved exclusively for the aforementioned potentates.
Nowadays even drug dealers ride in Rolls Royces. Soon only drug businessmen will
ride in Rolls Royces, along with their bankers and, of course, the great public
benefactors who deal in the sacred somniferants of government and religion, those
wise and powerful men who concede you liberty on earth and everlasting life in
heaven. Soon all the limousines made by Mr. Rolls and Mr. Royce will be bulletproof,
like the Popemobile. Soon there will be even more prophets in the business of
kissing airstrips and more citizens discovering that their destiny is to lick
the boots of heavily-guarded psychotics.
They, the movers and shakers, have made their definition
of luxury and they have no doubt as to its validity: luxury is what makes them
richest. Their greatest luxuries are arms and drugs, of course. But there is also
luxury in tourism and fashion. Or so they would have you believe. Never mind that
tourism is massified and sordid. Never mind that the Mediterranean is a large
cesspool ringed by steel-reinforced concrete where the European industrial classes
are transported sheeplike to absorb dangerous quantities of ultraviolet radiation
through the skin and to add their effluents to the already foetid waters. Now
we have "eco-tourism," you say, "green tourism." That means, now that we have
ruined the seashore we shall proceed to ruin the mountains.
Joy of Labels
As for the luxury of fashion, they are teaching your
children--and you are permitting them--that one of the most important things in
life is the color of the tag on one's jeans. You, of course, wear only luxurious
clothes with the labels on the outside, clothes advertised in glossy magazines
read by women who paint their toenails with red lacquer. Ah, the luxury of tobacco.
Remember that? Expert tobacco sellers told you it was luxurious and liberating,
but they didn't tell you about the concomitant luxury of having a plastic esophagus,
or the luxury of the triple bypass. Extraordinary luxury, that.
say I exaggerate? Of course I exaggerate. I need to get your attention.
no sentient being will be taken in by any of these crassly mercantile imitations
of true luxury. Imitations? "If a Rolls Royce limousine is not truly luxurious,"
you ask, "then what is?" This is a stupid question, a question to which everybody
already knows the answer. True luxury is many things but none of them will fatten
the coffers of bankers very much, nor advance the ambitions of politicians very
far. That's why you don't hear much about them in the mass media (which, don't
ever forget, is a big business in itself).
Your Own List
I can give you my list but you, of course, must make
up your own. That is the first luxury: the freedom to make up your own mind without
having it manipulated by experts who want to sell you something luxurious, whether
in this life or the next. Luxury, I think, is not a hazardous airplane ride to
a tropical island with seven presidential palaces and mosquitoes the size of sparrows.
Luxury is a place to be alone. Time to think. Silence. Luxury is an honest loving
wife and the conviction that she will never leave you. Luxury is the belief that
the planet will be an infinitesimally better place for having had you briefly
does one buy this conviction? What is the price? These are silly questions. Like
everything of greatest importance, true luxury cannot be bought, regardless of
what our most accomplished buyers and sellers tell you. A spot under a tree if
it's hot, a place by the fire if it's cold; this is luxury. A cord of firewood
which you have cut and stacked yourself. Also luxurious is a room, or better yet
a house, without the terrible anti-personnel fragmentation bomb which is the television
with its strident banalities and truculent irrelevancies.
Old clothes are more luxurious than new ones. Everybody
used to know that, but most have had that knowledge insidiously supplanted by
determined sellers of new clothes. Maximum sartorial luxury is, of course, old
clothes with patches lovingly sewn by one's wife or mother. This basic luxury
has also been stolen from you. Neither your wife nor mother has the time nor inclination
to sew any patches on your fine old clothes. They, too, have been won over by
the sellers of new, disposable clothes. What about homemade bread? When is the
last time you ate homemade bread? Did you ever eat homemade bread? Meanwhile,
those who traffic in new clothes and sliced bread have so much money that they
can fly to places even farther away, where there are mosquitoes the size of starlings,
is the Meaning of Life, Anyway?
Luxury--and the very meaning of
life--is, I think, to plant an apple tree, cultivate it and eat the apples, and
to see your children eat the apples, then cultivate the tree for their children.
The Japanese used to know this best, but even they have forgotten, having fallen
into the webs of wily Occidental apple sellers.
is a friend. If you have ever had one I do not need to tell you that. And I need
not remind you that you did not buy him. I think a beefsteak and a bottle of decent
red wine are luxurious; you may prefer fish and a cold white. Neither need be
very expensive if you prepare it yourself, another luxury. I also like a dog who
comes when I call him, a cat which sidles up to me and purrs and a fishtank with
fish of extravagant colors. There are even greater luxuries: a pair of goldfinches
nesting in the ivy outside your kitchen window. But this is a luxury that only
the gods can bestow on you. No banker can help.
I think it's luxurious not to be told what to do and, in turn, not to have to
tell anybody else what to do. And, under the right circumstances, I think a book
is luxurious. Also a record, an etching, a painting, you know… Then there's the
luxury of creation. And what of the luxury of the flesh? A backscratch, a footrub,
a nuzzle, a fiddle, you know…
Good News: It's Not Too Late!
I am loath to bore you. Have I made my point? Almost nothing they want
to sell you as luxury is truly luxurious. Most of it is banal at best,
and some of it is positively dangerous. I remind you of this because,
in all likelihood, you are not one of the rare exceptions to the millions
of marks being tricked daily into believing that expensive wrappings are
more important than the contents of life's package. I remind you that
true luxury resides in the things you mainly already have, things which
have been badly devaluated by the incessant lies of skillful peddlers
of freeze-dried and canned luxury, things which you have been too busy
lately to cultivate and which are slowly dying on the vine.