What do I mean by magic? Forget Merlin. Forget Potter. I mean the belief that there is ever a short cut out of the constituent limitations of our humanity. That there is a way, instantly, with the flick of a wand or a credit card, of changing ourselves from one thing to something else entirely. Abracadabra. Magic is the escape fantasy of those who cannot cope with the fact that we are limited creatures, that we will grow old and die, that we can never have everything, that we will always be dependent on food and oxygen and the love of others, and that, because of this, we will often feel pain and loss. Magic is the belief that there is some other way of dealing with all of this other than simply by dealing with it.
Which is why I think the really dangerous magic – and I believe all magic is dangerous – is out there in the post-Christmas sales. The most insidious magic is disguised as something so ordinary we don’t even notice it. In terms of magic, both Christianity and contemporary market capitalism appear under the form of their opposites.
So why do humans flash the cash?
Because we’re social beings. You know, exactly that lefty thing that we’re all in this together, not simply individuals on our own islands. Which means that how we are perceived by others makes a difference. Social status in fact. And the higher your social status, the more those other human beings around you regard you as having it, then the better your life will be.
And bling is indeed part of social status. Veblen Goods, conspicuous consumption, they all lead to increased social status. No, not because we are on our islands raping Gaia, but because those other human beings that we share society with make it so.
For men, for example, increased social status leads to more opportunities with the babes. That’s why groupies. The social status doesn’t have to be about bling of course: but it can be and often is.
So why do men flash the cash? Because it gets them laid.
And if you’re going to start pontificating about morals and money and the limitations of this mortal life then you’d really rather better understand that we are just shaved apes looking for the next jump.
In part, at least.