Wednesday, August 23, 2006

the status quo

Last night, as I flicked through the myriad of free channels on my tv, I came across the second part of a three-part documentary series on the ABC called Status Anxiety. The series explores Alain de Botton's theory of how the vast majority of people are actually motivated by a quality desired even more than money. A quality which, no matter who you are, where you come from or what your social class, you all hanker for the one thing: status. It all boils down to how much (you think) you are worth in the eyes of the world.

All this seems rather plausible considering what high status brings. For one, it brings respect. Not the kind of respect you give to other people's religious inklings, but the kind that makes others feel so much more inferior to you. As Gore Vidal famously put it, "Every time a friend of mine succeeds, a small part of me dies."

Other advantages of high status include freedom, dignity, resources, protection, scantily clad woman who fan you with palm leaves and feed you grapes. What more could you want?

And that's exactly the point. This is what de Botton calls Status Anxiety *cue lightning and thunder storm*. You live in a society where you are told if you work hard you can achieve almost anything, including that life of non-stop pampering and ovation, but for some reason you just can't get it. You hear countless stories of people (usually fat) discovering their power within and turning their lives around. So why can't you?

These are just some of the things the series explores. I missed the first episode but the final part shows next Tuesday. See you there.

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