When hypocrisy hits the fan

It used to be quite simple. Throughout much of human’s history, the people were separated in two camps. On one side, there were the country people, and on the other, the city people. The ones who lived in the country were generally more in touch with nature. They worked the land, raised farm animals, hunted and fished. The ones who lived in the city didn’t see much of themselves in nature. They believed in progress and industrialization. Although both sides looked at each other with a bit a disdain, everyone knew pretty much where they stood. More or less, it was always Man vs. Nature. City vs. The Country. The Rabbit vs. The Turtle.

Since the 90s, the difference between the two groups has never been so blurry. In fact, a new group has been created–the people who live in cities and defend nature. Even though they may rarely get out of their cement environment, a walk in a nearby fenced park, a weekend at the country house (country being in a little suburb not far from the city), or a holiday on a cruise ship or Club Med may be enough for them to claim that they feel connected with Mother Earth. For some, it could be said that nature is a beautiful vase you put on a shelf and admire. It is something of a fairy tale, where even the crush of a fly is deemed cruel. Many have stopped eating meat, bragging high that it is “against nature.” They may have even declared war against anything that is derived from animals, claiming that it is “against nature.” They even may point the finger at the people who DO live in nature, and lecture them that they are in fact, against it! According to them, their urban green lifestyle is an example upon which everyone should follow.

The latest from this world of hypocrisy and nonsense shows up in the design world. A man who in March 2008 declared: “ I was a producer of materiality and I am ashamed of this fact. Everything I designed was unnecessary. I will definitely give up in two years’ time. I want to do something else, but I don’t know what yet. I want to find a new way of expressing myself … design is a dreadful form of expression.” Yet, according to his bio on his website, he is said to have “believed in the power of green long before ecology became fashionable, out of respect for the planet’s future.”

Philippe Starck’s latest meretricious masterpiece comes exactly two years and two months after his “mea culpa.” “A” is a megayatcht of 560 feet, which costs $20 million a year to maintain and burns a small 335 liters of gas per knot. Of the design, Starck states that, “While most megayatchs are a vulgar statement of wealth and power, ‘A’ was designed to be in harmony with the sea and nature. The boat has elegance and intelligence, it is not trying to show the money.”

The fact is, “A” could not be more vulgar to nature than pigeon shit on a million dollar Bugatti. With bright white interiors, chairs made from alligator hides and Kudo horns, walls covered with white sting ray hides and hand-stitched calf’s leather, $40,000 bath knobs, Baccarat crystal table, and a $60,000 banister, his claim feels more like a total insult than a mere annoyance. If there was a Hall of Fame for the Stupidest Things Said by Man, his would definitely be in the top three. “The use of the mirrors through this designed superyacht ‘A’, brings the wonderful views and horizons inside the vessel, thus creating the feeling of oneness with nature.” (LiveYachting.com) Excuse me while I control my gag reflex!

Stephen Bayley at the Observer summarizes quite perfectly the absurdity of Starck; “Through Napoleonic ego, Starck has achieved great celebrity and congruent wealth, but his work does not stand severe analysis. He has given us over-packaged pasta, groovy motorbikes that do not work, chairs that get scratched, sculpted shoes no one wants and the most famous lemon squeezer in the history of man’s emergence from the primeval gloop. Score 10 on Crap-O-Meter for that one. He tickles the ego of desire, without gratifying the more profound demands of id’s lasting needs. Far from tidying up the world, he has contributed to excess. As Karl Kraus said of psychoanalysis, Starck’s work is a symptom of what it purports to cure.”

The world of outdoor adventure has unfortunately also been affected. With teens spending over 75 hours a week consuming media (in front of the computer, television, mobile phone or playing video games) for many, the concept of exploring is a trip on Google Earth. In the eventuality that they do manage to step outside and smell the fresh air, they may rarely be disconnected from their cell phone or mp3 device. Their idea of nature could be defined by over the top dramatic-worst-case-scenario media channels. And they collect nature groups on Facebook like baseball cards. They Tweet about what the birds they saw in the backyard, the rain falling on the window. Even more disturbing, they exercise with the Wii. The outdoors, nature, exploring, traveling, all those words are becoming disconnected concepts. Words seen on screens. Options to be clicked when choosing a profile. What happened to the real nature?

Nature is raw. It is everything from the force of a tornado, to the kill of a baby gazelle by a group of lions; from the birth of a gorilla to a magical sunset; from the chicken laying eggs to a fox snatching them. Nature is pretty and cruel at the same time. It is hard and uncontrollable. It is the warmth of the sun, the freezing air of winter or a night sky filled with countless amount of stars. It is a scratch on the knee or a bite from a mosquito. Nature is definitely NOT a sanitized white environment filled with chrome and air conditioning. It is definitely not a fairy tale. Living in harmony with nature actually makes you humble, not pretentious and arrogant. It teaches you that the world is not perfect. That life and death are a necessary. Like ying and yang. I wish we could go back to a time of decency, where people knew the real meaning of being connected with nature. Instead we live in a world where the absurd is acclaimed, stupidity is rewarded and killing bacteria gel is the first thing to welcome you when entering your supermarket.

Nature (noun)
1 the beauty of nature: the natural world, Mother Nature, Mother Earth, the environment; wildlife, flora and fauna, the countryside; the universe, the cosmos.
Meretricious (adjective)
1 apparently attractive but having in reality no value or integrity : meretricious souvenirs for the tourist trade.
2 archaic of, relating to, or characteristic of a prostitute.
Thesaurus: the meretricious glitter of the whole charade: worthless, valueless, cheap, tawdry, trashy, Brummagem, tasteless, kitsch, kitschy; false, artificial, fake, imitation; informal tacky, chintzy.