Big, red, & shiny

Some years ago, when most things happened, there was a Finnic lady. She preferred this to “Finnish,” for she spoke English well. Sometimes she would use, “Uralic,” to the puzzlement of almost everyone, in the Asiatic city wherein she was conducting business. It was a store, where one could buy Scandihoovian furniture, light fixtures, bottles, and other material goods. These were early days of the “Asian Tiger” economies, but already there was a surplus of the “upwardly mobile,” many with European and even more with American post-secondary degrees. They just loved Scandihoovian things.

So did this Finnic lady, “in principle.” She was quite proud of “some” of the things that she was selling. This included a culture of sophistication, in the salons she conducted, Saturday afternoons. I, who sometimes attended, happened to notice that the guests consisted almost entirely of sophisticated white Occidentals, though occasionally a splendidly attractive Oriental woman, on the arm of a sophisticated, white lover. The house, too, was a splendid thing, full of choice Scandihoovian objects, which in their simplicity set off Asiatic antiquities to brilliant effect — turning them from objects of religious veneration into Western “art.”

I was very young, and more adept in those days at keeping my mouth shut. Too, I was dazzled by the Finnic lady’s guests, and thrilled to find myself among them. Ah, to be part of any √©lite.

Her store struck me as more downmarket. The son of an industrial designer, I had already acquired criteria of taste to rank objects above and below a certain standard. (That’s how I became an Anglican, incidentally; before descending to a Romish Catholick. The trinkets were more likely to be in good taste.)

One day, however, I asked this Finnic woman to explain her choice of stock. I’m afraid I asked this rather awkwardly, being young, but no offence was taken. She explained that, while she did not like such things herself, her customers were inclined to buy articles that were “big, red, and shiny.”

Now, I quite understand, possibly already understood, that a merchant who wants to remain in business will consult her customers’ tastes, in preference to her own. We must make a living. Some of us have children to feed, and in the old days, wives. Moreover, through the years, I have witnessed the progress of many haughty merchants into bankruptcy. The same might be said for the fashionable, generally, once the fashion in which they trade passes away. Indeed, none of this is any of my business; and I should mention that the only commercial enterprise I ever started, went the way of all flesh.

The world is full of items that are big, red, and shiny. This grieves me. Hardly anywhere will you find a law against them, at least over the last six centuries. (Previously, there were sometimes sumptuary laws.) A person, today, would have to be a leftwing loon, to formulate an objection. And as several readers have observed, some not even gently, I am a rightwing sort of loon.

Let me observe, however, that the world is quite complex. Taste, alone — vapid conceptions of what is in good taste — make strange enemies. But also it makes strange friends.