At times I admit the contradictions elude me. There’s a general consensus that prices are too high. In reality prices are always too high. Five years from now today’s complaints will merely become tomorrows complaints.
Yet so many Jordanians, and perhaps Arabs, are fixated with buying expensive things simply so they can say they buy expensive things. Or rather so as not to say that they purchased it inexpensively.
And therein lies the contradictions that I find myself grappling with in the moments before I fall asleep.
I never hear someone tell me about something they bought that was cheap. No one tells me where I can find a “good deal”. More importantly no one brags about finding a “good deal”. Instead we inflate our own purchases to extraordinary proportions so as to affirm wealth and status. If you ask someone in Amman who much they bought something for, the numerical answer will always be 25% higher than they actually paid.
Everyone else in the world seems to enjoy a good bargain. In fact they love it. The brag about it. Even as a child in Canada I was tuned into that mindset that suggested saving money was a good thing. Nine year olds bragging on the schoolyard about buying their baseball caps for less than others did.
This is non existent in Jordan it seems. Saying you bought something cheaper suggests that you yourself may be cheap. Hence saving face becomes pride and pride becomes vanity.
So instead I hear stories about wealth. Constant wealth.
Stories about the rich are told amongst the young and old, the men and the women. Everyone knows someone who did something extravagant and they retell the story like it was folklore in the making. And everyone listens keenly, with open eyes and gaping mouths, closed ever so slightly every now and then so as to let out a long whistle of amazement…
The latest wedding at a five star hotel I don’t care about where the cake was laced in diamonds and a famous Arabian pop star sang to the bride and groom. Stories about someone who bought his son a porche for his birthday because he had the pocket change to spare.
I don’t know these people. I don’t want to know these people. I don’t care about any of these people. More importantly, I don’t want to hear stories about them or what they do or how they choose to lead their lives.
Because I really, really don’t care.
I’m sorry…I just don’t.
I mean excuse the alliteration but why are their extravagances essential to my existence?
No, I don’t care what fashion statement my mobile makes about me. What it says about me. Where I come from or who I am. The car I drive doesn’t seem to make that statement either. It just drives.
But we build ourselves up, create a social image that is beyond the realms of our actual realities. And that makes the fall only that much harder, because so many of the wealthy do fall from grace. Ah, but that makes for a better story I suppose. Folklore about the man who once was and what he has now become. A fraction of his former self. Schadenfreude.
I feel sometimes like I’m living a Dickens novel in the digital age.
As Tyler Durden would say, I am not my fucken khakis.
Don’t get me wrong, materialism is not the point.
I just appreciate a good deal, a good bargain and an ordinary life. I prefer shawarma sandwiches to steaks at a five star hotel restaurant. I like jeans to armani suits. I like to brag about buying something cheaply. And heck, if I could find that armani suit at half the price I would wear it.
More importantly, I would brag about it.
But that’s just me.
And I’m just rambling here.