People can be perverse, sometimes. For instance, in these days of rising fuel prices it makes sense to buy a smaller car and try and keep your running costs down. Plenty of people are doing that; I was talking to a second-hand car dealer the other day, and he said he could find no buyers for his gas-guzzling giants, but the smaller cars are rushing off the forecourt. So, those people have done the maths and come to the conclusion that they need to ‘downsize’ and save money. Of course, some haven’t. Look around, watch the roads; you’ll see enough large cars sailing past, their owners with their noses in the air, seemingly oblivious to any changes in the economy. Who are these nuts? They’re the people who like to show off. There’s this thing called ‘conspicuous consumption’, in other words, it’s not just what you own and consume, it’s what you can show off to the world that you own. You own a big car, with a big engine? Show it off! You get through gallons of juice and spend of pounds at the petrol pump? Flaunt it! Some people are so stupid that their logic tells them that the rest of us are looking at them with envy. They can waste money on petrol? Wow, they thing: we must be impressed. On the contrary, dear friends. We can see you for what you are: those who live in a fantasy land of ‘showing off’ while the world runs out of oil and you burn it up on the motorway. If ever there was a case for shouting out, ‘Get real!’, then this is it. The ‘real’ thing is that you won’t be able to run your four-litre cars for ever. Why not get used to it now?
There’s other examples in everyday life. The obvious one is smoking. When will it be enough to say that scientists all over the world are advising you that inhaling smoke will cause you health difficulties in the future? The price of the smokes has been put up and up, in an effort to discourage. It hasn’t worked. The age level you can buy the stuff at has recently been put up in England. That’s worked a little too, but not much. Finally, people are now banned from pursuing the habit inside any public building in the country, and have to hover outside on the pavement, huddled together with their fellow addicts. Has that embarrassed them into stopping? Not a bit of it. Now they’re an embattled minority, and proud of it. They swap stories of being harassed and attacked; they sympathise with the illnesses they are causing themselves; they reinforce their stupidity with folk tales of relatives who survived to a late age without problems, (ignoring the dozens who didn’t). Anyone sensible, you might think, has got the health message by now, and stopped the habit, or else is looking around for advice and support on stopping. Some aren’t. They make a fetish out of their devil-may-care attitude. In effect, they are saying to the world, ‘Look at me, I’m risking illness and death and I don’t care’. They are flaunting the problems they are causing themselves. Well, that would be fine. After all, everyone in the West is legally entitled to end their lives. The smokers, of course, have a different approach: they cripple themselves and wreck their lungs, then expect the rest of us to supply the drugs and hospital care they need to prolong their lives. Strangely, we provide it. Maybe we feel guilty about all the tax that purchasers of tobacco products have supplied to the Treasury coffers in their lives. It doesn’t balance, of course: the debit from health costs far outweighs the income from tax. But that doesn’t matter. Smokers are showing off, and logic doesn’t come into it.
There is an alternative, or maybe many. One way is to listen to what the News and media are telling you. Question it, by all means. Think about it and weigh it up. But then, having considered, do sensible things, like giving up smoking, taking regular exercise and not buying a bigger car than you need. Ah, you say, ‘Stop showing off’. No, I’m not saying that, because, after all, each one of us, every day of our lives, is showing ourselves and our lives to the world. In that sense, we’re all ‘showing’ something. The choice, for all of us, is to decide whether we want to look like the person who: can’t be bothered to take health advice; chooses not to take notice of bad news about the environment and the economy; and generally wants to carry on like the jaded pop star, consumed with drink and drugs, who doesn’t even know what day it is, let alone whether they will survive until tomorrow. The message then, coming across whether we notice it or not, is that we are a good citizen, a responsible inhabitant and a member of the human race. Then, we nod at each other and smile as we pass by: we’re trying, we are saying, and doing our best. What could be a greater reason to ‘show off’? And, perhaps, we might even be allowed a small touch of pride, at the efforts we’re making.