I remember watching a documentary on PBS, The Persuaders, about how marketers winkle their way into people's lives. One segment that stayed with me was about Clotaire Rapaille, a French psychologist who had advanced his career from working with autistic children in his home country to advising luxury brand marketers in the United States about how to, well, winkle their wares into people's lives. He is a fascinating character. He lived in a chateau in upstate New York. His client's would attend en masse to hear his liturgy about parting exclusive customers from their millions by deploying a theory about the human brain.
He described 'the lizard brain' - an ancient part of the human mind that behaves in an unprogrammed way - aside from consciousness or rational thought. The lizard brain is hard-wired to facilitate our base instincts for survival. For example you can rationalise your choice of mate for their refinement and taste but, whether you are male or female, rich or poor the unreasonable drive from your lizard brain is to breed with the partner that is most likely to help you pass your genetic code onto future generations. A mutual love of piña coladas and getting caught in the rain might sound like a marriage made in heaven, but, I'm sorry primal urges overcome the mild buzz of rum, coconut, pineapple juice and tropical weather conditions. To synthesise Rapaille, the display of luxury items is simply an indicator of one's capability to provide and protect the product of your union. That's why chinless wonders and old guys who strike it rich immediately buy Ferrari and Rolls Royce cars - to symbolise their supremacy in the breeding stakes. Kind of like bright feathers in the ornithological world or exaggerated size of proboscis in the mating rituals of elephant seals. Likewise all non-utility fashion is a sexual display - even if you rationalise it with a pronounced fetish for design.
It is via this circuit that we come to philanthropy. Why do we have an urge to give as well as to receive? My theory is that we are social creatures. As innate as our drive to have the most widely dispersed 'seed' is, there is the corresponding sense that we are part of the group or tribe we are related to - by paternity/maternity, marriage or species. Our DNA is bound with the group, interhelixed.
Even when we rationally 'know' that we are not related by blood to others in a wider contemporary culture… our lizard brains don't 'know' anything. Its function is simply automatic - there is little we can do about it. You can read Ayn Rand's ridiculous theories and novels and nod in undergraduate, pseudo-intellectual agreement that it is every wo/man for themselves but the lizard in you knows that hunting and living in groups is more successful and offers protection from the savagery of the wild. Which, of course, multiplies your chances of successfully passing your genes onto children and so on. There is nothing you can do about it. Faced with a surplus? Married with children already? Another Ferrari or Versace frock would simply be vulgar (and probably have your partner worried about the stability of and your commitment to your protective family unit).
Your philanthropic urge - to support the society in which your children will prosper - is as innate as your drive for genetic immortality.
A friend sent me a link to this clip by the jazz group Snarky Puppy. I don't know if you like jazz or not - for me it's ok in moderation. But the thing that intrigued me wasn't the music but how it was being enjoyed by the audience. They are wearing headphones. I did some quick research and found that this could be a trend. Audience members listen to the performance through headsets connected directly to the engineer's soundboard. That way they get to experience the live event with clean, clear sound - as the artists intended.
Just a day before I had lunch with a buddy and noticed he was having a little difficulty hearing what I said in the yum cha restaurant when he wasn't looking directly at me. Or he may have been ignoring my comment about The Eagles - which is also very likely, as a DJ he is picky in his tastes. I asked if he could hear ok. He told me he had some hearing loss and was using hearing aids - he showed me the delicately wired phones. I asked if it …
I realise that I don't look much like a hippy - in the conventional sense, or the unconventional sense (given that we are talking hippy here). But I am. I have no desire to live in a conventional house. And frankly, I am sick of consumer society. I want to split, man. Escape to a woody glade somewhere and commune with nature.
It's not about a green agenda and, as far as I know, I don't have any great desire to be a naturist. I just yearn for a simpler life. Where is my copy of Walden by Thoreau.
There's a line in Walden I like, about solitude:
"I am no more lonely than the loon in the pond that laughs so loud, or than Walden Pond itself. What company has that lonely lake, I pray?"
And this from my favourite chapter 'The Pond In Winter'
"After a still winter night I awoke with the impression that some question had been put to me, which I had been endeavouring to in vain to answer in my sleep. as what - how - where? But there was the dawning Nature , in…