Ask Marie Antoinette.
Counter-intuitive? Well maybe it depends on the definitions of success and failure.
Way back in the mists of bloggy time I wrote a piece called Armageddon Will Not be Televised (blog 12 in the archives) and asked in that post -
‘Is it too extreme to suggest that the woman parading down the high street with the $1,000+ designer handbag may as well be walking round with a sick child under her arm’
With hindsight that proposition was an understatement – a hugely, massively, grossly, exaggerated understatement.
Back in the day I found it amusing that some women friends of mine couldn’t buy a thing unless it had a LABEL. If I failed (as I invariably did) to notice / be impressed / understand the relevance / realise the price tag implications of said label, they would help me by pointing it out.
It’s not that I’m averse to checking labels. If, for example, I read a tag that indicates a need for ironing, the item will be back on the hanger quicker than a Tory benefactor who didn’t get a peerage can cut his cash donations.
As someone who generally rips labels off stuff when I buy (Barnardos – Oxfam – British heart foundation) I just never got it. But then I don’t see shopping as a leisure activity and would most certainly feel demeaned if I began to identify as a consumer.
I have been known to go to some effort to cut labels off items I otherwise like if they are visible. Why would you parade around as a free billboard?
I had one friend who really tried very hard to educate me. If she put her latest designer handbag on the table between us in a coffee shop and I didn’t fall off my chair or start cooing like a constipated pigeon she would EXPLAIN to me how exclusive / expensive / desirable it was and even bring up examples on her phone of other desirable women who had the same desirable sort of bag. And I know you are thinking that I probably was scornful but I was not. Once I realised she’d gone all tight lipped because I’d missed the point AGAIN I really tried. But it was akin to when you have to explain a joke to someone. The moment is gone.
Have you noticed that no despot’s wife is without her designer bag! But then there mustn’t be much to do apart from shop if hubby is busy killing his political opponents.
But hey - I get enthused about things other people don’t care about and I am sure there have been countless times when some poor girlfriend has been bravely stifling a yawn.
Now social media is everywhere (and I speak dear bleader as you know from a severe Luddite perspective) none of us can pretend we don’t know. We know the earth’s resources are carved up in the maddest way. We know that otherwise healthy children die for the want of a diarrhoea tablet costing a couple of pence. We know that women are maimed and killed in sweat shops churning out disposable fashion for the west. We know apocalypse is happening in the Middle East and the dying and the desperate are fleeing with nothing. We know that there is enough food on the planet to feed everyone while people spend days worth of hours watching the great British Bakeoff et al then throw away huge amounts of food they bought in the supermarket.
Although most historians suspect that Marie Antoinette never actually said ‘let them eat cake’ when presented with news of the Paris poor having no bread, that phrase echoed discordantly through time because of what it represented. Today’s bag women are the Marie Antoinettes of our age. Worse - because they do know. Just as the peasants of France were not ignoring boulangerie full of gateaux because they just preferred la baguette, those starving or dying in poverty are not doing so out of choice. They are doing so because in the simplest terms they don’t have enough of any of the basics – bread, security, peace.
So the overpriced ‘thingy holder’, far from being a sign of success is a sign of failure – failure to launch, failure to empathise, failure to grasp just what the hell is going on.
If I ever apologised for that bit in Blog 12 (I probably didn’t) I retract the apology – in fact I apologise for apologising.
Anyone who could in all conscience go spend a few thousand pounds on bit of leather / plastic / hessian to put their lipstick, purse and phone in, is off their trolley or a twit. Stick that in your handbag and swing it.
Ditching the designer tat may not immediately solve the world’s problems but it may represent one tiny indication of an understanding that we all live on the same planet.