Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Problem With Civilization

I’ve just come back to Paris from a healing, therapeutic and mostly fabulous Spanish holiday, and… I’m depressed. People generally talk about a “post-vacation” depression (well, at least in Spain, I’m not sure they do in other countries with a less Catholic, more Calvinist religious background), but I think in my case it’s more of a “post-wilderness” depression. You see, after more than a month spent mainly on a surfboard, on a bike, in a swimming pool or just on the grass carelessly sleeping next to my dog or to the cows, Paris and its merciless glamour come as a shock. And I’m supposed to come back to the city, dress all chic (the sole act of wearing shoes after 5 weeks of living barefoot feels like Chinese torture, so at this stage I can’t even handle the thought of heels or red lipstick), stop doing things like using living animals’ backs for pillows and walking around in a bikini, and act as if fashion was actually fun, when the truth is after surfing it feels painfully bland and unimportant. I’ve noticed I adapt very easily to the laid back life of the country, and on the other hand I am extremely reluctant to the whole I’m-so-cosmopolitan-I-jet-between-the-coolest-cities-of-the-world thing. More and more I find civilization too… civilized. 
The problem with civilization is that is seems to be paramount for evolution and culture. It is thanks to an ultra-civilized society that we enjoy things like table manners, libraries and push-up bras. Some people even think humans need to get away from their own natures in order to be superior beings. On the other hand, think about some of the headaches it all has brought to us: paperwork. In-laws. The Metro. Not to mention the foul bad mood those 3 things have the power to create in adults. In a nature state, as long as you have coconut water and you know how to fish with a stick you’re alright.
The problem with civilization (especially if you happen to live in Paris) is that it creates a hell load of artificial problems. I.E.: “I don’t have a huge expensive car/ Balenciaga’s latest it bag/ an invitation to join the country club”. Is it seriously as important as all that? The amazing thing about spending time in the country seeing animals, taking care of plants and generally concentrating in nature lies in the fact that all those ridiculous worries seem to vanish. I always feel rooted and at peace in the wild; and I hate having to come back to those shallow obsessions and insecurities. 

The problem with civilization is that it’s all about discomfort. Look at the fashion. OK, it’s fabulous, it’s creative, it’s cool. Whatever. It’s still uncomfortable. Pencil skirts that make it difficult to walk, high heels that make it difficult to even exist, hats that fly away with the wind, elaborate hairdos that fall apart with the rain. Not that I don’t love the looks of it, but it’s like a very sophisticated prison. Can’t someone reinvent the magnolia leaf skirt-tiare flower necklace look?

I know I seem all pessimistic by saying all this, don’t take me too seriously. But do think about it. I was watching a documentary about George Harrison the other day and he talked about how his meditation journey in India made him happy, as it inspired him to be more spiritual, and how angry and frustrated he felt by the fact that he could not get rid of his earthly duties, business in London, the Beatles etc. I guess I feel identified with all that (except for the part where 3 Beatles wait for me in London). I am somehow smitten with the idea of Rousseau’s Noble Savage and I admire Gauguin and Marlon Brando for having dared to say “to hell with you, modern civilization” and escaping to a wilder life, where it all seems more logical and more freeing and people have more possibilities to really develop. So I guess I’ll try to keep all that in mind, even under the grey skies of Paris. Because, you see, the problem with civilization is that it is not human enough for humans.


  1. I think most people - if they take the time to think about it - would agree with you. Who wouldn't take a breezy cover up, bare feet and laying around by the ocean over the streets of [fill in major city here]? So refreshing to read this!

    1. Thanks for your comment Christine! Well, I certainly would escape if I could, it would be nice to only have real worries instead of "first world problems"...

  2. I found your blog on facebook, searching about Baudelaire. I was interessted by a blog with the title of one of my favorite books! But well, I don't really know what to say about fashion. I just think that people shouldn't do or wear things that makes them feel unconfortable!

    I'm from Paris. My mother works since ever in the richest part of Paris, and I'm used to guys with a rolex driving cars more expansives than the one year salary of an average worker; I'm also used to girls wearing shoes that could pay all of my study years -I went in highschool with this guys and girls, I'm friend with some of them even if I'm not from the same social level- but I still walking around wearing and doing what I want and I don't find this very difficult. It's easy. You just need to say "Fuck it, I don't care about what other people do/wear/think, I just want to feel good and prood of myself" and then, life will become much easier!

    PS: Sorry for the bad English, I've done the best I could!

    1. Merci pour le commentaire, Julien! En effet, même si mon blog ne parle pas de littérature, j'ai voulu choisir le titre du livre de Baudelaire pour ses nombreuses références esthétiques.


Thanks for your lovely comments.