15 June 2009

It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade

Working my way through Felix Guattari's "The Three Ecologies" at the moment. I find many contemporary French philosophers quite challenging to read, not because of the concepts they are conveying but rather because of the language used to convey those concepts.

Je suis nul en Francais, and thus am forced to rely on translations, and while I have a healthy skepticism for working from anything other than primary sources, with Guattari (as with Baudrillard and, to a lesser extent, Gorz) I have a feeling that the text is as obtuse at times as in the original. Thus it is more accurate to say that I am working my way through "The Three Ecologies", slowly.

And what are the Three Ecologies? Why they are the environment, social relations, and human subjectivity, of course. Guattari argues that any ecological movement that focuses purely on the natural environment (as most Green movements do) without also addressing society and the mind is worthless. A lot of my reading lately has been focused on the area of social ecology (I picked up a few books on and by Murray Bookchin in Edinburgh recently), as I have become increasingly disillusioned with the self-centered and selfish nature of Irish society and find myself steering dangerously close to 'move-to-a-cabin-in-the-woods-and-shoot-at-anyone-who-comes-close' territory, prevented only by a) the inability to get a decent cappuccino in the middle of most forests and b) the almost complete lack of any actual forests in Ireland thanks to our former colonial masters and the current lack of a long-term cohesive forestry strategy by Coillte.

This weekend almost pushed me over the edge though, and I had to be metaphorically restrained by the Very Understanding Girlfriend in order to prevent what the Six-One News would no doubt refer to as an "incident" from occurring. The cause of my apoplectic existential rage?

The 'Taste of Dublin' Festival.

Billed as a "four-day celebration of fine food and drink. Set in the beautiful surroundings of Dublin's Iveagh Gardens, twenty of the capital's most prestigious restaurants and celebrated chefs will be serving sample-sized signature dished to our sophisticated foodies this summer. Bringing unparalleled culinary experience to over 30,000 visitors, the very best in speciality food and drink companies will also showcase alongside these outstanding restaurants", the Very Understanding Girlfriend and I thought we would pop along as the weather was nice. Realising the event would no doubt be popular, we decided to book tickets online, for the 'bargain' price of €25 each. Plus €3.50 booking fee, each. No, this was not through Ticketmaster, rather it was through the festival site itself. Tickets on the door were €28.50, with no booking fee. Grrrrrrrrr.

And what exactly did our €28.50 each get us? Entry into the festival, and nothing else. In order to actually sample any of the food inside, you had to buy vouchers that were used like cash inside. A minimum of €20 worth of vouchers. Each.

The participating restaurants inside were each selling three dishes, slightly smaller than a starter, with prices averaging €7 per dish, and it goes without saying that the vegetarian options were few and far between. A glass of wine or a beer seemed to be around €5, so for your book of twenty vouchers you would get two starters and a drink. In other words €48.50 for two starters and a drink.

And the place was packed.

This was obviously the society event of the month, as despite the fact it was held in a public park it had the atmosphere of Ladies' Day at the Galway Races, with ridiculous hats and over-sized sunglasses matched only in their contribution to a sense of pythonesque farce by the sight of people trying to walk across grass in six-inch stiletto heels. The champagne was flowing like water as attendees watched celebrity chefs demonstrate saucy-little concoctions for that cheeky bit of left-over quail you never know quite what to do with from the comfort of their Brown Thomas VIP enclosure, and then suddenly I realsied what your €28.50 got you.

Your €28.50 bought you a brief respite and protection from the unwashed masses, from the dirty little people who are an annoying reminder that your ill-gotten wealth has been at the expense of the remaining 99% of the population of this country. It afforded protection from the misery of the bank collapses, the property crash, the financial meltdown and the responsibility for all of the above that hangs squarely upon the shoulders of you and your ilk.

I was literally witnessing the "Masque of The Red Death", Edger Allan Poe's tale of a group of wealthy nobles who lock themselves away inside a mansion to escape the ravages of a plague in the city outside, holding an elaborate costumed ball to distract their troubled minds. I imagined myself as Death stalking each of them in turn, forcing them to confront their misdeeds, accept blame and seek restitution before collapsing judged and executed upon the green summer's lawn.

Alas, before I could carry out my cleansing mission as the Angel of Death of the Common Man, I was cunningly distracted by the Very Understanding Girlfriend with a selection of Lemongrass infused liquid Salted Caramels from Artisan du Chocolat of London. Yum, yum, yum, something seriously amazing, little balls of salty chocolate goodness, on offer at less than half price at €4.50 per pack, and also available in Sage and Thyme flavour. You think it would never work, but it so does! Yum, yum, yum.

Ire dampened somewhat by the sudden ingestion of salt and sugar, I resolved to seek a rebirth of Dublin society, rather than its mere destruction, and upon my return home my attention turned once more to Guattari and Bookchin, and their quest for an egalitarian social ecology.

But one day the chocolate salty balls will run out, my wrath will be absolute, and Darkness and Decay and the Red Death will hold illimitable dominion over all.

Bwah-hah-hah!

Links
The Masque of the Red Death
Taste of Dublin
Artisan du Chocolat, yum, yum, yum!
Guattari - 'The Three Ecologies'
Bookchin - 'Social Ecology and Communalism'

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