Handbags & Gladrags: The Shock of Materialism
Saturday afternoon, California, the world is in turmoil, with political soap operas on both sides of the Atlantic, war, the threat of nuclear holocaust, and illegal invasions, starving children, people trying to make ends meet, and yet as I witnessed yesterday, the downright and shocking materialism is brazen, unapologetic, and going strong.
I have always been wary of going into shops where prices aren't readily visible. I remember visiting Paris and the Place Vendôme with its cobbled square, the famous Paris Ritz, and the array of shops with singular windows displaying singular items, a handbag, a watch, or the latest bottle of scent - no pricing, obviously very expensive, but hey, that's Paris and expected, but my local shopping mall?
As I walked into the store, it started out of curiosity as I was confronted by a display of women's shoes - there was a pair that looked old and scrubbed up. I turned them over, priced at $850! But it didn't stop there. I picked up one of a pair of pink flip/flop slippers, I nearly fell over, plastic with a bit of fluffy stuff, $2,000!!
An attendant came over to me and asked if she could help me. "Just browsing, thank you," was my answer. Another couple of minutes, in the handbag section, another attendant asked me the same thing; my answer remained the same, then I realized that the two attendants were sparring over who got to me first - no wonder at the commissions they must get on these exorbitant selling prices.
I escaped to the men's section - surely, the same couldn't be true there, could it? I picked up what appeared to be a plain old blue baseball cap, $575! - No way! There was a jacket not too dissimilar to my own run-of-the-mill North Face, a couple of hundred-dollar jacket - $2,000! A jumper for $2,000, another what looked like a hoody for $1,750, and then another jacket for $6,750!!
"What started out as a chance encounter turned into a game of 'guess the price,' and as I went through the emotions of finding it funny, those quickly turned into anger at how could anyone, no matter how rich, spend these types of money on 'stuff' when there is so much turmoil and poverty in the world."
The experience actually made me feel sick, and naive. It is true; I have traveled all around the world - yes, I have been to the Place Vendôme and Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles, and I have toured the malls of the South of France, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney, and San Francisco - but for some reason, I just wasn't expecting this level of flagrant materialism so close to home and everyday life. It wasn't as though this mall was a tourist destination or a cruise ship stop-off; this is a mall visited by everyday people, my neighbors.
"I thought about my time in Africa, the starving, the women and children trekking miles for water, for medication. Those in India, South East Asia, in South America. I thought of those just a few miles from me in Oakland and San Francisco, living in their cars, in tents, or in shelters made from cardboard."
I came away disgusted. I think about how stupid we are as a human race. I think about the demise of Easter Island and how erecting stone statues was more important than preserving the island's resources to sustain its habitants.
This primitive example underscores this stupidity, and as I think that in less than 20 years, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish. How climate change is real and great rivers are drying up before our very eyes. How wildfires are no longer the exception but the norm.
"Are the capitalists, these materialists around me, are they blind to all these warning signs, or they just don't care - as long as they continue to gorge themselves in this world of handbags and gladrags?"
I have this saying, "if someone says they understand XX, then they really don't understand XX." It relates to impossible puzzles like quantum physics, cosmology, or, closer to us humans, Africa or even Northern Ireland - I am now going to add human behavior and materialism to that list.
Willy Mitchell is an indie author, writer, and storyteller.
Mitchell's first title was Operation ARGUS, and then the sequel Bikini BRAVO where a group of former Special Air Service operatives enter the dark and murky world of maskirovka and discover the lengths that some people will go to for power and greed.
Cold COURAGE tells the epic tale of Shackleton's 1914 Trans-Antarctic Expedition and all that was happening in those extraordinary times.
Book four, Northern ECHO, tells the story of two boys growing up during the punk rock revolution in the north of England, and how a dark secret keeps them apart until the end.
Gipsy MOTH is about his Aunt Nikki, her friend, and fellow Aviatrix Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart on the other side of the pond during the golden age of aviation.
SS INDIGO is due to be released by the end of 2022 and tells the story of a group of eclectic guests invited by a mysterious billionaire to a luxury cruise in the Caribbean. They all have one thing in common.
All of Mitchell's books so far are novels, works of fiction, blended with real events. For further information or on how to buy his books, visit his author's website: