Wednesday, December 08, 2004


"what it don't get I can't use" (Radford/Cordy - 'Money' from 'With The Beatles' - 1963)

with two cards on the mantelpiece already - one from my sister-in-law's mother, the other from mel's dentist - it's time to upend the piggy-bank and make a budget.
having long ago forsworn the pursuit of wealth in favour of something else (don't rush me - I'll remember it in a minute) I do wonder, from time to time, whether or not I was wrong, and whether money can, in fact, buy happiness. certainly, a great deal of the unhappiness that goes with poverty can be mitigated with money. equally certainly, it's clear from the behaviour of those who appear in the public eye, and from my own limited experience of contact with the very rich, that unhappiness isn't the prerogative of the poor. but as always, it depends on how you define the two factors - happiness and wealth.
I can see an easily identifiable set of circumstances which would constitute happiness, for example, in 99% of the population - male and female - at or around the age of twenty - circumstances that revolve around recreational sex, drugs, rock n roll, the ready acquisition of cool stuff, and travelling in style, all of which could be, and indeed are readily available on the open market. I can see that there are circumstances in which the prolongation of this behaviour - and the happiness that it brings - into late middle-age could be maintained as long as the money held out, and that plundering the world for new experiences - if that was your bag - could be inexhaustible fun.
finding myself in a rare non-judgmental mood, I see no but's in this. (you were thinking he's about to point out the downside of being someone like Jack Osborne or Prince William or Paris Hilton, weren't you? sorry - no can do - they've got it made and they're making the most of it - good for them. the small but wicked compensation for the rest of us consists in the pathetic Schadenfreude of watching them make the inevitable total fuckup of the rest of their lives, but that's another story.) provided - ok here we go with the 'provided's' - you're ok with limiting your definition of happiness to nothing to do with, oh, I dunno, intelligence, let's say, or self-knowledge, or trust, or responsibility - you know, boring grownup virtues - I reckon it can be bought, ninety-nine times out of a hundred. that proviso, however (what a giveaway) might turn out to matter in the long run.
I think time has to be factored in somewhere, although I'm none too clear how you might go about that. I mean, is the stuff that will make a twenty-year-old happy the same stuff that will make, say, a fifty-year-old happy? well, duh, yeah, actually. except that, in the majority of cases, the fifty-year-old's expectations will have a) been moderated by experience; b) been subjected to the physical limitations of ageing; and c) (probably the single most significant factor) been subject to the unpredictable alchemy of parenthood.
having kids changes everything. there's no single aspect of behaviour that's not fundamentally altered by that experience. you have to be a totally self-dedicated selfish egotistic bastard of a fuckup and a total failure as a human being not to consider your kids' happiness above your own. this kind of comes with the territory. it's something most parents discover within minutes of the birth of their firstborn. no secret. neither is it any particular hardship. it's just what happens. but
(ok there was always going to be a but I just held out as long as I could)
but what - apart from all the latest cool stuff and that new game that all their friends have got and instant gratification of every whim - do kids most want? (you see where this is going, I expect) and where can you buy it? and how much does it cost?
whenever I hear the merry ka-chinng of another mythical christmas till being prepped (don't you miss that merry ka-chinng?), I think of those sad car-stickers that the RSPCA dishes out every year - a dog is for life, not just for christmas - and think, yeah. woof.

No comments: