Monday, 26 April 2010

The Social Transaction


The pope may now not come to the UK because of the Foreign Office gaffe. I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but perhaps in this case it was indeed a conspiracy to keep him out, knowing full well the problems a visit by this man will cause.

Saw a really idiotic headline in one of the right-wing papers yesterday while assisting Hay with her paper round. It suggested that house prices are now increasing by 10%, which is apparently good news. Why should a new housing bubble be good news? Why should the fact that house prices are going far beyond first-time-buyers’ means be good news? Why should it be good news that if you want to go up the housing ladder it’s going to cost you a damned sight more? The only people who could possibly be pleased are property speculators and those downsizing.

My next subject is gift lists, whether for weddings or children’s birthdays. Don’t you agree they’re in such bad taste? The minute money enters the dynamic (and a gift list imposes a minimum value), the social benefit of giving or receiving gifts is replaced by the cut and thrust of the marketplace. The worst and most crass example is the recent habit of asking people to contribute to the cost of your honeymoon. If someone asked me to contribute money or gave me a gift list, I’d send them a few Argos vouchers and ensure I never met up with them again.

How would you feel if you’d invited some people round for dinner and they brought you a nice bottle of wine? You’d probably be enormously pleased. How would you feel if they slapped a £10 note on the table? I can guarantee you’d be mortally offended. Even if someone brought round a menial bottle of wine costing under 3 quid you probably wouldn’t feel offended in the slightest – but a £50 note would offend you enormously. The closer the social transaction comes to money the more the dynamic changes into a trade - we detest it and think it the height of bad manners. Transactions that belong in the marketplace should never encroach on social occasions.

Psychologists once did an experiment. They placed a 6 pack of Cokes in a university dormitory fridge. Within a few days all the Cokes had been nicked. They then replaced the Cokes with 6 saucers of money, being the equivalent of the price of a can of Coke. The saucers remained untouched. The lesson is that the further removed from hard cash something is the more we can be tempted into dishonesty over it.

Talking of social transactions; yesterday I was looking at weird wedding rings at http://weddingbands.wikidot.com/ (Hay and I are intending to marry sometime in the next 20 years). Below is a good one for me – it’s called the Remember Ring. The idea is that the ring will warm to a slightly uncomfortable degree for 10 seconds every hour starting 24 hours before your anniversary. When you’re as forgetful as me, then every little helps.



7 comments:

  1. I agree with you about gift lists - really I do - even though I have just asked my brother what my nephew wants for his 13th birthday. I want to give him something he actually wants........ Meanwhile back at the wedding list - again I agree with you but how to avoid the 22 toasters problem? We said firmly no gifts but, if you want to gift us something, then a donation to a particular charity in our name..... I think that was reasonable, wasn't it?

    Richard x x x

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  2. Poor old Pope - laughed at on all sides - I see it was the Daily Telegraph that broke the non PC Pope memo story. And I am surprised - I am also surprised by the reactions of the Catholic Church - the best reaction would surely have been to laugh - as a confident organisation would have - the second best reaction would have been none at all and the worst? Surely complaining loudly and bitterly about the memo and the insult to His Holiness.

    Richard x x x

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  3. Richard: There is no solution to the 22 toaster problem - ecxept the charity shop (which is not a solution really). But that's not the point - it's the thought that is crucial, not the gift, or its value. It shows you care - unless it's a toaster.

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  4. Richard: As for His Holiness. It's His own fault he's in this unholy mess.

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  5. Desmond : If the newspaper in question was the Sunday Mail it is read by people who are queuing up to die. They are most likely to be downsizing and therefore wanting property prices to go up by 500%.
    Nick

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  6. No, i don't think thats remotely good news about house prices. It doesn't seem to have applied here at all in Twickenham anyway. They're still as greedy as ever!

    apparently in Ireland, they don't have wedding lists at all x

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  7. Algernon: I've seen whippersnappers of 65 reading the Daily Mail, thus I refute yourassertion that it's only for coffin dodgers.

    By the way, how did you get a name like Algernon?

    Janny: Do they even have weddings?

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