The middle way

You know the type: expensive food & women; silk kimonos every day. Private carrying chairs for their wives. Music & card lessons for their marriageable daughters; drum lessons for their sons. Football, miniature archery, poetry contests. Constantly renovating their houses; downright addiction to the tea ceremony. Cherry-blossom viewing, boat trips, daily baths. Nights on the town. Gambling & litigating, sword-drawing & duelling. Participation in mining projects. Sake with the evening meal; then smoking, one pipe after another. Unnecessary trips to Kyoto. Carving small articles during working hours. Collecting gold sword-fittings. Borrowing money at over 8 percent.

What can I say?

The truth is I was never sufficiently appalled by these wastrels, bringing decadence to Tokugawa Japan. They were the nouveaux riches of the risen merchant class, whom Ihara Saikaku takes to task in his 18th-century novels. One generation makes the money with enterprise & thrift. The next just spends it. You get what you might expect, when peasants rise too fast: for most of these people came up from farmers.

Enterprise & thrift are all very well, but they lead quickly to extravagance. Peace is nice, but it only leads to war. And war is pointless, because it only leads to peace. (Once upon a time I had a Delhi girlfriend, who explained all this to me.)

We should try to cultivate some moderation.