A. C. Grayling, proprietor of the New College for the Humanities, may be a bit of a charlatan. But I suspect that in this piece for the FT, he’s a good guide to the next turn of the zeitgeist.
Is austerity a bad thing? Not always. The austerity years of the second world war and its aftermath were surprisingly good for people; calorie restriction meant flat tummies and robust health, at least for those not smoking the lethal cigarettes of the day. That was a physical benefit; the psychological benefit was perhaps greater. Being in the same boat promoted a sense of common purpose and comradeship. …
Lent, the 40 days before Easter, is supposed to involve an elective form of austerity; we are to give something up, engage in self-denial as a discipline. Different stories are told about the reason for it… But the real reason for Lent is that the late winter and early spring was always a time of dearth. … The experience of Lent, when it really was a time of belt-tightening and hard work to get the next tranche of resources on its way, was doubtless salutary in keeping people (as we now say) real. Keeping real means being mindful of how tenuously we own our comforts.
… the realities of austerity in hard economic times mean giving up the car, going out less often, cutting not just amenities but necessities, or what we think are necessities. The people who take the hardest hit are the poor and vulnerable, who already do without what others regard as necessary.
But there is the glimmer of opportunity that austerity offers. Most of the things that are intrinsically most valuable in human life do not cost money, though by the application of money to them we think we embellish them. … Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher of antiquity, said that the truly rich person is he who is satisfied with what he has. Think that saying through. How rich one is, if content with a sufficiency; how poor, with millions in the bank, if dissatisfied and still lusting for more. Enforced austerity, as in a major economic downturn, might teach what is sufficient, and how one might be grateful not to be burdened with more than is sufficient. …
So long as people measure their worth by how much they earn or own, they will think that having less is austerity, that living more simply is austerity, that getting to know their own locale rather than rushing to distant beaches is austerity. Yet perhaps “austerity” actually means “the opportunity to live more richly”. Then, of course, it would be austerity no more.
Among the highly placed,
It is considered low to talk about food.
The fact is: they have