Transcript: Alain de Botton on Status Anxiety | Jan 08, 2005

A caption reads “U of T Book Store.”
A picture of a book appears. The cover is red with a person looking into a mirror, and the title reads “Status Anxiety by Alain De Botton.”

Alain stands behind a podium and addresses an unseen audience.

He says I'M GOING
TO BE TALKING TONIGHT ABOUT MY
NEW BOOK “STATUS ANXIETY.”
TELLING YOU SOME OF THE CAUSES
OF “STATUS ANXIETY.”
SOME POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS --

A caption reads “Alain De Botton. Author, “Status Anxiety. Innis
College. June 17, 2004.”

Alain continues AND THEN WE
CAN HAVE A CHAT ABOUT IT.
I SHOULD PROBABLY START BY
TRYING TO DEFINE FOR YOU WHAT
STATUS ANXIETY IS, CAUSE YOU
MAY BE RATHER PUZZLED.
IT'S A, IT'S A TERM THAT I
THINK I INVENTED.
THOUGH IF SOMEONE ELSE FEELS
THAT THEY'VE INVENTED IT, DO,
DO SPEAK UP.
BUT REALLY
IT REFERS TO, IT REFERS TO ANY,
FIRST OF ALL LOTS OF MOMENTS OF
EVERY DAY LIFE.
I THINK WE ALL COULD EXPERIENCE
STATUS ANXIETY IN ALL KINDS OF
ORDINARY SITUATIONS.
LET'S SAY YOU HEAR ABOUT A
PARTY AND YOU'RE NOT ON THE
GUEST LIST.
OR A FRIEND OF YOURS AT WORK IS
PROMOTED ABOVE YOU.
OR SOMEONE YOU WERE AT
UNIVERSITY WITH MOVES INTO A
BIGGER HOUSE THAN YOU.
ALL OF THESE THINGS COULD BE
TRIGGERS OF, OF STATUS ANXIETY.
I THINK THE AREA THAT I'M
TALKING ABOUT IS THAT, THAT
GORE VIDAL WAS TALKING ABOUT
WHEN HE MADE HIS FAMOUS QUIP,
EVERY TIME A FRIEND OF MINE
SUCCEEDS A SMALL PART OF ME
DIES.

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues SO ALL
THESE, ALL THESE KIND OF
ANXIETIES ABOUT WHETHER WE'RE
GOING UP OR DOWN.
AND HOW WE'RE DOING IN
OPPOSITION IN THE SOCIAL WORLD,
ETCETERA.
ALL OF THIS PERTAINS TO THIS,
THIS PROBLEM, THIS CONDITION
THAT I'M CALLING STATUS
ANXIETY.
I, I MYSELF STARTED FEELING
STATUS ANXIETY AS I WAS
FINISHING UNIVERSITY, AND READY
TO, TO GO OUT INTO THE WIDER
WORLD.
I SUBSEQUENTLY CAME ACROSS A
QUOTE FROM GEORGE ORWELL WHERE
HE SAID AFTER 20, NO ONE CARES
IF YOU'RE NICE.
THE IDEA BEING THAT WHAT REALLY
MATTERS IS WHAT YOU'RE DOING.
WHAT, WHAT YOUR CAREER IS AND,
AND ALL OF THAT.
THE FIRST PART OF MY BOOK IS
DEVOTED TO LOOKING AT SOME OF
THE CAUSES OF STATUS ANXIETY.
AND I START BY SAYING THAT ONE
OF THE THINGS THAT GIVES US
STATUS ANXIETY IS THAT ALL OF
US WHATEVER OUR CURRENT STATUS,
USED TO HAVE INCREDIBLY HIGH
STATUS.
IF YOU LOOK AT THE WAY THAT
SMALL CHILDREN AND BABIES ARE
TREATED, I THINK THEY'RE
TREATED IN A WAY THAT A ROMAN
EMPEROR WOULD HAVE ENVIED.
IF, IF YOU'RE HUNGRY AS A BABY
SOMEONE BRINGS YOU YOUR DINNER.
IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT, YOU JUST
CHUCK IT ON THE FLOOR.
SOMEONE WILL PICK IT UP.

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues ALL YOU
NEED TO DO TO BE THOUGHT CUTE
AND WONDERFUL IS TO SORT OF
WAVE A TOY AROUND AND EVERYONE
WILL SMILE.
UNFORTUNATELY, THINGS GET
TOUGHER AS WE GET OLDER.
IF BY THE AGE OF 25 YOU'RE
STILL THROWING YOUR DINNER ON
THE FLOOR.

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues AND IF YOUR
SOCIAL GRACES DON'T EXTEND
BEYOND YOU KNOW WAVING A TOY
AROUND, NO ONE IS GONNA BE
PARTICULARLY IMPRESSED.
SO, SUDDENLY NEW FACTORS COME
IN.
IT ISN'T, IT ISN'T ENOUGH JUST
TO BE YOURSELF.
YOU HAVE TO START ACHIEVING IN,
IN VARIOUS WAYS.
AND I THINK OUR DESIRE FOR
STATUS EXPLAINS A LOT OF WHAT
WE DO IN ADULT LIFE.
UM, ECONOMISTS SOMETIMES
PRESENT US WITH A VISION OF
OURSELVES AS BEING PRINCIPLY
AND PERHAPS EVEN SOLELY
MOTIVATED BY MONEY IN A LOT OF
THE WAY THAT WE WORK.
I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO
RECOGNIZE THOUGH THE HUGE ROLE
THAT STATUS PLAYS IN WHAT WE'RE
TRYING TO DO THROUGH OUR WORK.
YOU KNOW IF YOU LOOK AT A LOT
OF WHAT MAKES LOW, PAID WORK
UNPLEASANT, IT ISN'T JUST THE
LOW PAY.
IT'S THE LACK OF DIGNITY, THE
LACK OF RESPECT THAT COMES WITH
MANY LOW, PAID JOBS.
JUST AS A LOT OF WHAT MAKES
HIGHLY PAID, WORK INTERESTING
AND EXCITING IS THE DIGNITY AND
RESPECT THAT YOU'RE SHOWN IN
THE PROCESS OF ACCUMULATING
WEALTH.
SO, THE SEARCH FOR STATUS
EXPLAINS A, A LOT OF WHAT WE DO
I THINK, AND IT'S OFTEN I THINK
IGNORED.
ANOTHER REASON WHY WE FEEL
STATUS ANXIETY IS THAT WE'RE
SURROUNDED BY PEOPLE WHO IN MY
BOOK I BLUNTLY CALL SNOBS.
NOW, THE THING ABOUT SNOBS, THE
THING ABOUT SNOBBERY,
SNOBBERY'S OFTEN ASSOCIATED
WITH A KIND OF OLD-FASHIONED,
BRITISH INTEREST IN YOU KNOW
MONARCHY, ARISTOCRACY, DUKES,
DUCHESSES, ETCETERA.
I THINK ALL OF THAT HAS REALLY
GONE OUT THE WINDOW NOW IN MOST
PLACES IN THE WORLD.
I THINK IT WOULD BE HIGHLY
UNUSUAL TO FIND ANYONE THAT
CONCERNED WITH THAT OLDER MODEL
OF, OF, OF SNOBBERY.
BUT I THINK I DEFINE SNOBBERY
REALLY AS ANY METHOD OF JUDGING
ANOTHER HUMAN BEING, WHEREBY
YOU LATCH ONTO ONE OR TWO
THINGS ABOUT THEM AND USE THESE
TWO THINGS, ONE OR TWO THINGS
TO COME TO A DEFINITIVE VIEW OF
SOMEONE'S CHARACTER.
SO FOR EXAMPLE, YOU KNOW YOU
CAN HAVE SNOBBERY IN ALL, OF
ALL KINDS.
YOU COULD FIND A MUSIC SNOB,
AND IF YOU MEET A MUSIC SNOB
HOWEVER RICH AND COMPLEX YOUR
SOUL MAY BE, IF YOU HAPPEN TO
MENTION THAT LOVE THE MUSIC OF
PHIL COLLINS --

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues YOU KNOW
THE MUSIC SNOB WILL NEVER TAKE
YOU SERIOUSLY.
YOU, YOU, YOU KNOW YOU CAN HAVE
A CLOTHES SNOB AND A CLOTHES
SNOB AGAIN DEPENDING ON WHAT
YOU'RE WEARING WOULD NEVER TAKE
YOU SERIOUSLY.
SO, BUT OF COURSE I THINK THE
DOMINANT KIND OF SNOBBERY AT
LARGE IN, IN THE MODERN WORLD
IS CAREER SNOBBERY.
AND I THINK NOWADAYS WHEN TWO
PEOPLE MEET FOR THE FIRST TIME,
ONE OF THE FIRST QUESTIONS THEY
ASK EACH OTHER IS WHAT DO YOU
DO?
AND ACCORDING TO HOW YOU ANSWER
THAT QUESTION PEOPLE WILL
EITHER BE YOU KNOW INCREDIBLY
PLEASED AND INTERESTED TO SEE
YOU.
OR ELSE LIKE OH, IS THAT THE
TIME?
AND YOU KNOW WANDER OFF.

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues SO, A LOT
YOU KNOW A LOT HANGS ON THIS.
NOW THE OPPOSITE OF THE SNOB IS
YOUR MOTHER.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says NOT, NOT
NECESSARILY YOUR MOTHER BUT AS
IT WERE THE IDEAL MOTHER, THE
PERFECT MOTHER.
SOME MOTHERS ARE SNOBS.
NOT THAT MANY, BUT, BUT THAT
CAUSES REAL PROBLEMS.
BUT, BUT IDEALLY YOUR MOTHER
DOESN'T CARE WHAT YOU DO.
SHE CARES WHAT YOU ARE.
AND, AND BUT OF COURSE MOST
PEOPLE ARE NOT OUR MOTHERS
UNFORTUNATELY.
MOST PEOPLE ARE MUCH MORE
CONCERNED WITH, WITH WHAT WE DO
AND NOT SO CONCERNED WITH WHAT
WE ARE, AND THAT EXPLAINS A LOT
OF OUR ANXIETIES.
IT EXPLAINS A LOT OF, SOME OF
THE REASONS WHY WE PURSUE THESE
THINGS CALLED, CAUSE THEY GET
CALLED STATUS SYMBOLS, THE
FAST, CARS, THE HOUSES, THE
GOLD TAPS, ETCETERA.
WE'RE OFTEN USED TO MOCKING
PEOPLE WITH A PARTICULARLY
URGENT CONCERN WITH STATUS
SYMBOLS.
YOU KNOW PEOPLE, THE GOLD TAP
HUNTERS, THE, THE FERRARI
OWNERS, ETCETERA.
BUT I THINK TO, TO SIMPLY YOU
KNOW RESORT TO MOCKERY IS, IS I
THINK TO MISS A KIND OF
EMOTIONAL POIGNANCY.
BEHIND A LOT OF THE SEARCH FOR
LUXURY, YOU KNOW THE NEXT TIME
YOU SEE SOMEONE IN A FERRARI
THIS ISN'T JUST SOMEONE WHO'S
INTERESTED IN YOU KNOW, FAST,
ITALIAN ENGINEERING.
THIS IS SOMEONE WHO IS USING A
CAR TO MAKE A VERY, AS I SAID,
POIGNANT, EMOTIONAL MESSAGE,
WHICH IS PLEASE BE NICE TO ME.
PLEASE LIKE ME.
AND THE POINT IS THAT, THAT I
THINK PEOPLE ARE GENERALLY A
BIT NICER TO YOU IF YOU ARRIVE
AT A PARTY IN A FERRARI THAN ON
A BICYCLE.

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues SO IN A WAY
ALL OF US ARE IMPLICATED IN, IN
THE SYSTEM WHEREBY CERTAIN
MATERIAL GOODS CONFER HONOUR.
AND I THINK YOU KNOW VERY OFTEN
PEOPLE SAY WELL WE'RE GETTING,
WE'RE GETTING TO BE EVER, MORE
MATERIALISTIC.
WE'RE A GREEDY, MATERIALSTIC
SOCIETY.
AND I THINK THAT'S AGAIN TO, TO
MISS THE POINT.
WE'RE NOT SO –

The caption changes to “Alain De Botton.Author,”Status Anxiety. U
of T Bookstore Reading Series.”

Alain says A LOT OF
THE TIME WE'RE NOT INTERESTED
IN THE PARTICULAR MATERIAL
GOODS.
WE'RE, WE'RE SIMPLY A SOCIETY
THAT HAS INVESTED EMOTIONAL
MEANINGS INTO MATERAIL OBJECTS.
AND OFTEN
WHAT WE WANT IS NOT SO MUCH THE
MATERIAL GOOD ITSELF, BUT THE
DEGREE OF RESPECT AND HONOUR
THAT COMES FROM OWNING THESE
THINGS.
SO AGAIN IT'S SORT OF, IT'S,
IT'S A DIFFERENT WAY OF LOOKING
AT THE PURSUIT OF LUXURY
PRODUCTS.
IT ISN'T, I THINK TO, TO SAY
THAT IT'S SIMPLY GREEDY IS, IS
TO MISS A POINT.
BEHIND ALL OF THIS I SUPPOSE IS
A KIND OF EMOTIONAL
VULNERABILTY.
A KIND OF INSECURITY ABOUT
OPPOSITION, WHEREBY WE'RE
TRYING TO SHORE OURSELVES UP
WITH THE HELP OF LABELS AND
CLOTHES AND CAREERS, AND, AND
ALL THE REST OF IT.
I REMEMBER A FEW MONTHS AGO
MEETING AN ENGLISH
PSYCHOLOGIST, AND HE WAS
TELLING ME THAT IN HIS VIEW, HE
WAS SAYING THAT PROBABLY ONLY
ABOUT TEN PERCENT OF THE
POPULATION IN HIS ESTIMATION OF
BRITAIN IS EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY.
AND BY THIS HE MEANT PEOPLE WHO
DON'T NEED TO BE USED.
DON'T NEED TO HAVE ANY RECOURSE
TO STATUS OBJECTS, OR THE
PURSUIT OF STATUS.
THEY'RE HAPPY TO FOCUS ON YOU
KNOW THEIR CAREERS, THEIR,
THEIR FRIENDSHIPS, PEOPLE
AROUND THEM.
THE, THE JOBS FOR THEIR, OWN,
THE JOB'S FOR THE JOB'S SAKE
RATHER THAN FOR THE SAKE OF
STATUS.
UM, BUT THEN HE DID POINT OUT
THAT THE, THE THING ABOUT THE
REST OF US.
YOU KNOW THE OTHER 90 PERCENT IS THAT
WE ARE MUCH MORE CONCERNED WITH
IT.
HE ALSO ADDED THAT PEOPLE WHO
GIVE LECTURES, AND, AND COME
AND TRAVEL AROUND AND WRITE
BOOKS, ETCETERA, ARE, ARE
NORMALLY NOT IN THE, THE
PRIVELEGED TEN PERCENT.
THAT THIS IS DEFINITELY A SIGN
OF SOME KIND OF VULNERABILTIY.
UM, WE CAN TALK MORE ABOUT THIS
IF YOU FEEL THE NEED TO PRESS
ME ON THIS.
BUT, BUT ANYWAY I THINK ALL OF
THIS EXPLAINS THAT, THAT BEHIND
OUR SEARCH FOR LUXURY AND
MATERIAL GOODS, IT'S, IT'S
IMPORTANT TO LOOK AT THE
EMOTIONAL DIMENSION.
IT'S NOT SIMPLY MATERIALISM.
UM, ANOTHER REASON WHY PERHAPS
TODAY WE SUFFER MORE FROM
STATUS ANXIETY THAN IN THE
PAST, CAUSE I THINK SOME OF MY
EXPLANATIONS ARE PSYCHOLOGICAL,
AND, AND OTHERS ARE MORE
HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL.
AND I THINK THERE ARE WAYS IN
WHICH YOU COULD SAY THAT STATUS
ANXIETY IS WORSE TODAY THAN,
THAN IN THE PAST.
AND ONE OF THE REASONS IS I
THINK THAT WE'RE ONE OF THE
FIRST GENERATIONS TO BELIEVE
THAT STATUS IS NOT SOMETHING
THAT YOU SHOULD EVER INHERIT,
BOTH LOW STATUS AND HIGH
STATUS.
IT'S SOMETHING THAT YOU SHOULD
CREATE YOURSELF.
AND MOREOVER THAT THERE SHOULD
BE NO LIMITS TO THE EXTENT TO
WHICH YOU COULD ACHIEVE HIGH
STATUS.
WE VERY MUCH BELIEVE, AND THIS
IS ORIGINALLY OF COURSE THE,
THE FOUNDING STONE OF AMERICAN
SOCIETY, THE IDEA THAT ANYONE
CAN BECOME ANYTHING, THAT THERE
SHOULD BE NO BARS, TO, TO
ACHIEVEMENT.
AND THEN YOU FIND THIS YOU KNOW
ALL OVER THE PLACE.
THIS IDEA THAT THERE SHOULD BE
NOTHING HOLDING YOU BACK.
THAT, THAT YOU KNOW THE SKY'S
THE LIMIT, ETCETERA.
WHEN I WAS WRITING THE BOOK I
WAS LOOKING AT A NUMBER OF
SELF, BOOKS OF SELF-HELP THAT
SEEMED, CAUSE THEY SEEM TO SORT
OF TAP INTO A LOT OF THIS
PHILOSOPHY THAT YOU CAN BECOME
ANYTHING.
I WAS TALKING TO A CANADIAN
JOURNALIST THIS MORNING, WHO
TOLD ME THAT THERE'S A
BESTSELLING BOOK HERE CALLED
“THE COURAGE TO BE RICH.”

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues IT SOUNDS
LIKE A FASCINATING TITLE.
BUT, BUT WHEN I WAS,
UNFORTUNATELY I DIDN'T DISCOVER
IT WHEN I WAS WRITING THE BOOK.
BUT I CAME ACROSS THE WORK OF
AN, AN AMERICAN SELF-HELP
WRITER CALLED ANTHONY ROBBINS,
AND HE PUBLISHED A BOOK, PLEASE
DON'T BUY IT --

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues HE
PUBLISHED A BOOK CALLED, CALLED
“AWAKEN THE GIANT WITHIN.”
AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO
HAVEN'T READ “AWAKEN THE GIANT
WITHIN” TO SUMMARIZE IT
BRIEFLY, UM, BASICALLY IT'S A
STORY OF HOW ANTHONY ROBBINS
SAYS THAT EVERYONE HAS A POWER
WITH A CAPITAL “P” INSIDE THEM.
AND IF WE DISCOVER THIS POWER
WE CAN BECOME AS RICH AND
SUCCESSFUL AS ANTHONY ROBBINS.
AND HE GIVES US SOME SORT OF
TIPS ABOUT HOW TO DO THIS
ETCETERA.
AND IT'S A TYPICAL, NARRATIVE
OF SUCCESS.
OF HOW SOMEONE HAS COME FROM
NOTHING AND THROUGH, THROUGH
SHEER EFFORT, THROUGH SHEER
WILLPOWER HAS MANAGED TO
TRANSFORM HIMSELF.
LET ME READ YOU A LITTLE BIT
FROM, FROM “AWAKEN THE GIANT
WITHIN” WHERE, THIS IS WHERE
ROBBINS EXPLAINS HOW HE
TRANSFORMED HIMSELF.
UM, I DISCOVERED MY POWER AND
USED IT TO TAKE BACK CONTROL OF
MY PHYSICAL WELL-BEING.
I PERMANENTLY RID MYSELF OF 38
POUNDS OF DEBILITATING FAT
THROUGH THIS WEIGHT LOSS I
ATTRACD THE WOMAN OF MY
DREAMS.
I THEN MARRIED HER AND SHORTLY
AFTER CREATED THE FAMILY THAT
I'D LONG DESIRED.
I USED MY POWER TO CHANGE MY
INCOME FROM SUBSISTANCE LEVEL
TO OVER 20,000,000 DOLLARS A YEAR.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says BUT THIS,
THIS MOVED ME FROM A TINY
APARTMENT WHERE I'D BEEN
WASHING MY DISHES IN A BATHTUB
BECAUSE THERE WAS NO KITCHEN,
TO MY FAMILY'S CURRENT HOME,
THE DELMAR CASTLE WORTH
65,000,000 DOLLARS.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says SO, HE'S,
HE'S, HE'S AN, HE'S AN EXTREME
VOICE.
BUT I THINK NEVERTHELESS,
DESPITE THE EXTREMITY,
CHARACTERISTIC-WISE I THINK YOU
CAN SAY, VERY MUCH SAY, YOU
KNOW THIS IS A FAMILIAR VOICE
NOW.
IT'S SAYING THAT THROUGH
WILLPOWER YOU CAN TRANSFORM
YOUR STATUS.
YOU, YOU CAN BE ANYTHING.
AND OF COURSE THIS IS A
WONDERFUL AND I MEAN THIS
GENUINELY, A BEAUTIFUL IDEA,
BUT OF COURSE, ONE THAT CARRIES
WITH IT A REAL, STING IN THE
TAIL.
UM, I'VE BEEN GETTING A FEEL
FOR THIS.
IF YOU GO TO, IF YOU GO TO ANY
LARGE BOOKSHOP AND YOU LOOK AT
THE SELF-HELP SECTION IT SEEMS
THAT THERE ARE ALMOST TWO KINDS
OF BOOKS ON, ON OFFER.
THE FIRST KIND, THE SORT OF
ANTHONY ROBBINS KIND, YOU KNOW
HOW TO BECOME A BILLIONAIRE BY
FRIDAY AND ALL THAT, AND THEN
THE OTHER KIND ARE BOOKS
TELLING YOU HOW TO COPE WITH
LOW, SELF-ESTEEM.
AND I THINK IT'S AN UGLY
PHRASE, BUT I THINK YOU KNOW AN
IMPORTANT ONE.
AND I THINK THE TWO GENRES ARE
ACTUALLY INTIMATELY RELATED.
YOU KNOW IT'S BY THE TIME IT'S
SATURDAY AND YOU HAVEN'T BECOME
A BILLIONAIRE --
[Audience laughing]

Alain says THE, YOU
KNOW THAT YOU'LL BE REACHING
OUT FOR SOMETHING HELPING YOU
TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT YOURSELF.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says SO I, I
THINK THAT YOU KNOW A SOCIETY,
A SOCIETY WHICH TELLS PEOPLE --
EVERYONE
CAN BE EXTRAORDINARY.
BUT WHERE ACTUALLY OF COURSE,
YOU KNOW BY THE VERY NATURE OF
THE SYSTEM NOT EVERYONE CAN BE
EXTRAORDINARY.
IT'S SETTING UP AN AWFUL LOT OF
PEOPLE FOR A, FOR A FALL.SO THERE'S
A REAL CONNECTION I THINK
BETWEEN THE EXPECTATIONS THAT A
SOCIETY FOSTERS AND THE DEGREE
OF, OF LOW, SELF-ESTEEM YOU
COULD SAY THAT MIGHT BE
FOSTERED AS, AS A RESULT.
NOW ANOTHER FEATURE OF, OF,
BECAUSE I MEAN I THINK ANOTHER
SORRY, THING TO MENTION, I
FORGET I MEAN I THINK IT'S
PROBABLY AS UNLIKELY TODAY THAT
YOU KNOW YOU COULD THROUGH
SHEER, WILLPOWER BECOME AS RICH
AND SUCCESSFUL AS BILL GATES.
AS IT WAS UNLIKELY IN SAY THE
17TH CENTURY THAT YOU COULD
BECOME YOU KNOW AS RICH AND
POWERFUL AS LOUIS THE 14TH OF
FRANCE.
THESE ARE HIGHLY UNLIKELY
EVENTS.
BUT THE KEY THING IS THAT IT
DOESN'T FEEL UNLIKELY TODAY,
THAT YOU COULD BECOME BILL
GATES.
IN FACT, YOU KNOW THE
ATMOSPHERE OF, OF PUBLIC
OPINION CAN OFTEN SUGGEST THAT
IF YOU'RE ENERGETIC, IF YOU
KNOW A LITTLE BIT ABOUT
SOFTWARE, IF YOU HAVE A GARAGE,
YOU KNOW YOU TOO --
[Audience laughing]

Alain says YOU TOO
COULD START A MAJOR, YOU KNOW
SOFTWARE COMPANY.
AND, AND YOU KNOW THAT'S
QUESTIONABLE.
SO YOU KNOW A REAL CONNECTION
BETWEEN LEVEL OF EXPECTATIONS
AND HOW, AND A FEELING OF
ADEQUACY OR INADEQUACY.
UM, LIKE ANOTHER THING ABOUT
THE MODERN WORLD RELATED TO ALL
THIS IS THE FEELING OF ENVY.
AND I THINK THAT ONE OF THE
THINGS ABOUT ENVY IS THAT WE
DON'T TEND TO ENVY EVERYBODY.
WE DON'T ALWAYS ENVY PEOPLE WHO
HAVE MORE THAN US.
WE DON'T ENVY JUST ANY, ANYBODY
WHO HAS MORE THAN US.
FOR EXAMPLE, I THINK, CORRECT
ME IF I'M WRONG, BUT I THINK IT
WOULD BE HIGHLY UNUSUAL FOR
ANYONE HERE TO ENVY THE QUEEN,
YOU KNOW EVEN THOUGH SHE HAS A
LOT MORE THAN MOST OF US, SHE'S
SIMPLY TOO REMOTE A FIGURE TO
START TO ENVY HER.
SHE'S TOO, SHE'S TOO FROM
ANOTHER PLACE FROM WHERE MOST
OF US AREN'T.
SO WE WOULDN'T FEEL DIRECT
ENVY.
BUT IT'S MUCH MORE LIKELY, IN
FACT IT'S QUITE LIKELY THAT WE
MIGHT ENVY SOMEONE WE WERE AT
SCHOOL WITH WHO'S GOT A
SLIGHTLY, BIGGER HOUSE THAN US,
SMALLER THAN BUCKINGHAM PALACE
BUT BIGGER THAN OUR OWN.
SO ANYTHING WHICH, ANYTHING
WHICH DRAWS, ANYTHING WHICH
ENABLES US TO COMPARE OURSELVES
TO SOMEONE ELSE CAN INCREASE I
THINK THE DANGER OF ENVY, AND
SO A KIND OF STATUS ANXIETY.

A slide shows a picture of Alain on a blue background that gives
details about his book and his lecture.

Alain says I MEAN I KNOW AS A WRITER, THE
WRITERS THAT I ENVY, YOU KNOW
IT WOULD BE HIGHLY UNUSUAL FOR
ME TO ENVY LET'S SAY, I DON'T
KNOW, A, A FEMALE POET IN HER
60'S FROM AUSTRALIA.
MUCH MORE LIKELY THAT I WOULD
ENVY A SORT OF 34-AR OLDISH
MALE, WHO'S, WHO'S WRITING
ABOUT PHILOSOPHY AND LIVING IN
BRITAIN.
YOU KNOW THAT, THAT ANYTHING
WHICH DRAWS TWO PEOPLE CLOSER
TOGETHER, IMAGINATIVELY
INCREASES THE DANGER OF ENVY.
NOW ONE OF THE THINGS THAT DE
TOCQUEVILLE SAID WHEN HE MADE
HIS FAMOUS JOURNEY AROUND THE
UNITED STATES, IN, IN THE
MIDDLE OF THE 19TH CENTURY HE
PREDICTED THAT ENVY WOULD BE
THE NUMBER ONE EMOTION FELT IN,
BY CITIZENS IN DEMOCRATIC,
EGALITARIAN SOCIETIES.
AND HIS EXPLANATION FOR THAT
WAS THAT, THAT THESE SOCIETIES
IN PARTICULARLY THE UNITED
STATES CONSTANTLY TELLS PEOPLE
WE'RE ALL EQUAL.
AND OF COURSE YOU KNOW THAT'S A
LOVELY IDEA, BUT COMBINED WITH
AN ACTUAL SORT OF PRACTICAL
INNER QUALITY THIS HUGELY
INCREASES THE FEELING OF ENVY.
BECAUSE IF WE'RE ALL EQUAL WHY
DOES THIS PERSON HAVE MORE THAN
ME?
AND I THINK IT'S, IT'S A
FEATURE OF MODERN HIERARCHY
THAT IT'S, IT'S RATHER SUBTLE
AND, AND SO IT, BUT IN A SENSE
INCREASES THE DANGER OF ENVY BY
BEING SO SUBTLE.
SO, YOU KNOW BILL GATES LOOKS
JUST LIKE US.
YOU KNOW HE TOO WEARS JEANS,
AND WE KNOW WHAT HIS KITCHEN
LOOKS LIKE AND HIS FAMILY LIFE
SEEMS QUITE ORDINARY ETCETERA.
SO WE ARE CONSTANTLY DRAWN
TOWARDS AN IDENTIFICATION WITH
PEOPLE WHO IN PREVIOUS AGES WE
WOULD KNOW NOTHING ABOUT, AND
WOULD HAVE FELT VERY REMOTE.
WE NOW FEEL A PROXIMITY THANKS
TO OR RATHER NO THANKS TO THE
MEDIA OFTEN, TO PEOPLE WHO IN A
WAY OFTEN TORTURE US WITH THEIR
IMAGES OF, OF SUCCESS AND
FULFILLMENT.
SO, ALL OF THIS I THINK HELPS
TO EXPLAIN WHY TODAY
PARTICULARLY WE MIGHT BE
FEELING MORE STATUS ANXIETY
THAN, THAN IN THE PAST.
THERE'S PERHAPS ANOTHER REASON,
AGAIN RATHER A PARADOXICAL ONE
AND THAT HAS TO DO WITH OUR
SENSE OF HOW JUST SOCIETY IS.
UM, IN THE OLDEN DAYS IF YOU,
YOU KNOW IT WAS VERY MUCH
BELIEVED THAT SOCIETY WAS, WAS
REALLY UNJUST AND IF YOU SAW A
RICH PERSON YOU KNEW THAT, THAT
PERSON WOULD BE RICH BECAUSE
THEY PROBABLY KILLED SOMEONE,
OR YOU KNOW THEY'D BEEN HANDED
THEIR PRIVELEGES ON A PLATE BY
THEIR, THEIR FAMILIES.
WELL YOU KNOW ONE WOULD THINK
VERY MUCH THAT THE SYSTEM WAS
RIGGED.
NOW FOR THE LAST 200 YEARS AT
LEAST POLITICIANS ON ALL SIDES
OF THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM HAVE
BEEN TRYING TO MAKE A SOCIETY
THAT WE WOULD NOWADAYS CALL
MERITOCRATIC.
A, A SOCIETY WHERE IF YOU HAVE
GENUINE TALENT AND YOU HAVE
SOMETHING TO SAY AND YOU HAVE
WILLPOWER AND ENERGY, YOU
SHOULD BE ABLE TO SUCCEED.
YOU SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO A
FREE UNIVERSAL EDUCATION SYSTEM
ETCETERA.
THIS HAS BEEN VERY MUCH THE
TENET OF MODERN POLITICS.
THAT A MERITOCRACY IS, IS THE
SYSTEM THAT WE SHOULD BE AIMING
TOWARDS.
NOW, MERITOCRACY HAS MANY
ADVANTAGES AND, AND YOU KNOW
HUGE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE HAVE
GAINED THROUGH A MORE, THROUGH
SOME OF THE IDEAS THAT HAVE
ACCOMPANIED THAT WORD
MERITOCRACY.
BUT I THINK THERE'S ALSO A
DARKER SIDE TO MERITOCRACY, AND
I THINK IT'S WORTH DWELLING ON
THAT.
YOU KNOW IF YOU, IF YOU HAVE A
SOCIETY WHERE PEOPLE GENUINELY
BELIEVE THAT THOSE AT THE TOP
DESERVE THEIR SUCCESS BECAUSE
THEY WORKED HARD, BECAUSE
THEY'RE CLEVER, ETCETERA.
YOU ALMOST HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT
THOSE AT THE BOTTOM DESERVE
THEIR FAILURE.
AN ELEMENT OF JUSTICE ENTERS
INTO THE DISTRIBUTION, NOT JUST
OF THE REWARDS IN SOCIETY BUT
ALSO OF THE PUNISHMENTS.
UM, WHENEVER A SOCIETY'S
BELIEVED TO BE GENUINELY
MERITAUCRATRIC YOU'LL FEEL A
MUCH HARSHER ATTITUDE TOWARDS
THOSE WHO FAILED.
UM, THE RICH WILL GET CREDIT
FOR THEIR SUCCESS BUT SO WILL
THE POOR FOR THEIR FAILURE.
SO, SO PEOPLE BECOME MUCH MORE
RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT OCCURS TO
THEM.
AND I THINK YOU GET A SENSE OF
THIS, I MEAN LANGUAGE REFLECTS
THIS.
UM, YOU KNOW SCROLL BACK THE
CLOCK 300 YEARS, THOSE AT THE
BOTTOM OF BRITISH SOCIETY, OF
ENGLISH SOCIETY WOULD HAVE BEEN
CALLED UNFORTUNATES FOR THEIR
CONDITION.
THE, THE VERY POOREST IN
SOCIETY WERE BEING DESCRIBED AS
UNFORTUNATES.
NOWADAYS AT THE BOTTOM, THOSE
AT THE BOTTON OF SOCIETY ARE
DESCRIBED AS LOSERS.
UM, A VERY HARSH WORD.
A VERY HARSH WORD INDEED AND
THAT EXPLAINS, THAT TELLS US
SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT.
IT TELLS US THAT WE GENUINELY
BELIEVE THAT LIFE IS, IS THAT
THE, THE RACE FOR HONOURS AND
SUCCESS AND MATERIAL WEALTH IS
A GAME AND IT'S MORE OR LESS A
FAIR ONE.
THERE'S THAT VERY, HARSH MODERN
EXPRESSION WINNERS MAKE THEIR
OWN LUCK.
SO THAT THE IDEA THAT WE ARE
RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT OCCURS TO
US.
WE CAN TAKE THE CREDIT AS I SAY
FOR OUR SUCCESS.
BUT WE MUST ALSO TAKE THE
CREDIT FOR, FOR OUR FAILURE.
AND THIS INTRODUCES A VERY,
HARSH NOTE INTO THE
CONVERSATIONS, DISCUSSIONS OF
PEOPLE.
I REMEMBER BEING VERY STRUCK A
FEW MONTHS AGO, I WAS HAVING
DINNER WITH SOME AMERICAN
FRIENDS AND SUDDENLY ONE OF
THEM, THEY WERE VERY SORT OF
MODERN, LIBERAL, FORWARD,
THINKING PEOPLE, BUT THEN ONE
OF THEM STARTED TALKING ABOUT
TRAILER TRASH.
AND THIS IS, IT STRUCK ME AS
THIS INCREDIBLY HARSH TERM FOR
YOU KNOW DESCRIBING A GROUP OF
PEOPLE WHO FOR WHATEVER REASON
HAVE ENDED UP YOU KNOW ON, ON
THE EDGE OF TOWN LIVING IN
TEMPORARY ACCOMMODATION.
BUT AND I BUT WHEN I CONFRONTED
THIS FRIEND THEY WERE SAYING
WELL, YOU KNOW LISTEN I HAVEN'T
BEEN HANDED MY PRIVELEGES ON A
PLATE.
EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING I'VE GOT
HAS BEEN DOWN TO MY SUCCESS.
WHY SHOULD YOU KNOW WHY OF
COURSE, I MEAN PEOPLE WHO, WHO
DON'T WORK THEY END UP IN
TRAILER HOMES AND YOU KNOW
THAT'S THEIR FATE.
SO AND YOU KNOW YOU FIND THIS
APPROACH IN, IN MANY AREAS.
THAT MORE PEOPLE FEEL THAT
SOCIETY IS JUST AND THAT THERE
IS JUSTICE IN THE WAY PEOPLE
EARN MONEY.
YOU ALSO UNFORTUNATELY GET A
FEELING OF JUSTICE AT THE
NEGATIVE END OF, OF THE
SPECTRUM.
AND I THINK GENERALLY AS A
SOCIETY WE'VE, WE'VE DONE AWAY
WITH THE IDEA OF LUCK AS AN
EXPLANATORY FACTOR, IN HOW
PEOPLE'S LIVES GO.
WE HOLD PEOPLE RESPONSIBLE FOR
WHAT HAPPENS TO THEM.
I MEAN IF I, IF I SAID YOU KNOW
I'VE RECENTLY STARTED A, A
MULTINATIONAL COMPANY -A BILLION
DOLLARS OF TURNOVER.
THINGS ARE GOING REALLY WELL
FOR ME.
BUT IF I SAID, YOU KNOW I'VE
JUST BEEN LUCKY YOU'D THINK OH,
THIS GUY'S BEING SORT OF
SUSPICIOUSLY SORT OF ARROGANTLY
MODEST IN A KIND OF BRITISH
WAY.
JUST AS IF I SAID YOU KNOW WELL
YOU KNOW I'VE UNFORTUNATELY,
I'VE --JUST BEEN
SACKED.
BUT YOU KNOW IT WASN'T MY
FAULT.
I WAS JUST UNLUCKY.
YOU'D THINK, HMM, WERE YOU
UNLUCKY OR YOU DID YOU DO
SOMETHING WRONG?
YOU KNOW WE, WE HOLD PEOPLE
RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAPPENS TO
THEM.
AND A VERY, YOU KNOW THIS IS,
YOU KNOW SCROLL BACK THE CLOCK
TO DIFFERENT PERIODS OF HISTORY
THIS WOULD BE VERY UNUSUAL.
LET'S SAY IN ANCIENT ROME IF
SOMETHING GOOD HAPPENED TO YOU
IN, IN BUSINESS OR IN WAR IN
ANCIENT ROME YOU WOULD
IMMEDIATELY PAY FOR A, A
CHICKEN OR A GOAT TO HAVE ITS
THROAT CUT AND, AND SACRIFICED
TO ONE OF THE GODS OF ROME.
OR PERHAPS THE GODDESS OF
FORTUNE BECAUSE IT WAS BELIEVED
THAT YOUR, GOOD FORTUNE WAS NOT
ENTIRELY DOWN TO YOU.
IT WAS YOU WITH THE HELP OF ONE
OF THE GODS AND SO THE GODS HAD
TO BE THANKED.
JUST AS IN, IN MANY CHRISTIAN
SOCIETIES IF YOU WERE A
CHRISTIAN KING WHO'D WON A
BATTLE YOU WOULD INSTANTLY
THANK GOD FOR HELPING YOU TO
WIN.
IT WASN'T JUST YOU AND YOUR,
ARMY.
IT WAS YOU, YOUR ARMY AND GOD.
AND THERE WAS A COROLLARY TO
THIS IN, IN MY OWN LINE OF
WORK, IN WRITING YOU KNOW IT
WAS VERY MUCH BELIEVED THAT AS
A WRITER WHEN YOU FINISHED
YOUR, YOUR EPIC POEM IT WASN'T
JUST YOU WHO COULD TAKE THE
CREDIT FOR YOUR EPIC POEM.
IT WAS YOU WITH THE HELP OF A
BEAUTIFUL, SCANTILY CLAD YOUNG
WOMAN CALLED A MUSE.
WHO WAS YOU KNOW GONNA BE
ACCOMPANY YOU THROUGH YOUR,
YOUR EPIC POEM AND HELPING YOU
TO WRITE.
NOW, THERE'S THE WHOLE IDEA OF
THE MUSE SOUNDS VERY BIZARRE.
I MEAN IF I WENT TO MY
PUBLISHER AND SAID YOU KNOW
UNFORTUNATELY I'VE BROKEN MY
CONTRACT.
BUT IT'S NOT MY FAULT THE MUSE
HAS DESERTED ME, THEY WOULD YOU
KNOW NOT HAVE MUCH SYMPATHY.
SO WE ARE, WE ARE GENERALLY
HELD TO BE THE AUTHORS OF OUR
OWN BIOGRAPHIES, HELD TO BE
RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAPPENS TO
US AND THAT HUGELY INCREASES
THE FEELING OF SHAME FOR
FAILURE.
AND I THINK IF YOU TALK TO MANY
UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE AS I'VE DONE
AND YOU ASK THEM WHAT'S THE
WORST THING ABOUT BEING
UNEMPLOYED?
I MEAN THIS PROBABLY WOULDN'T
APPLY SO MUCH IN THE STATES BUT
I THINK PROBABLY WOULD APPLY IN
CANADA AND MUCH OF EUROPE, YOU
ASK THEM WHAT'S THE WORST THING
ABOUT BEING UNEMPLOYED?
THEY DON'T NECESSARILY SAY
MONEY.
THEY SAY SHAME.
THEY SAY THE STIGMA, THE LOSS
OF STATUS.
THE FEELING THAT I AM
RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT HAS
OCCURRED TO ME.
AND YOU KNOW IT'S A VERY
INTERESTING SORT OF DARK
PERSPECTIVE ON THE WHOLE
SUBJECT OF MERITOCRACY.
IN CASE I'M DEPRESSING YOU
TERRIBLY THERE ARE, THERE IS
FORTUNATELY HOPE ON THE WAY,
BECAUSE HALF OF MY BOOK IS
DEVOTED TO LOOKING AT SOME OF
THE SOLUTIONS.
SOME OF THE RESPONSES THAT
PEOPLE HAVE MADE DOWN THE AGES
TO THEIR STATUS ANXIETY.
AND THIS IS WHAT I, I WANT TO
LOOK AT NOW.
IN A WAY AT THE HEART OF MY
BOOK IS THE WHOLE QUESTION OF
HOW MUCH WEIGHT WE SHOULD GIVE
TO THE OPINIONS OF OTHER
PEOPLE.
HOW MUCH SHOULD WE CARE ABOUT
WHAT THE WORLD THINKS OF US?
ABOUT THE STATUS THAT THE WORLD
GIVES US AND OFFERS US.
WHEN I WAS WRITING THE BOOK I
CAME ACROSS A GROUP OF PEOPLE
WHO SEEMED TO ME TO EXEMPLIFY
AN EXTREME ANSWER TO THAT.
A, A REALLY, VERY STRONG
CONCERN WITH WHAT OTHER PEOPLE
THINK.
I LOOKED AT THE WHOLE HISTORY
OF DUELING AND DUELERS AND IT
STRUCK ME THAT FOR HUNDREDS OF
YEARS IT WAS CONSIDERED UTTERLY
NORMAL THAT IF SOMEONE INSULTED
YOUR STATUS, FOR EXAMPLE IF YOU
KNOW SOMEONE CALLED YOU WEAK OR
EFFEMINATE, OR YOU KNOW IF
SOMEONE ACCUSED YOU OF SLEEPING
AROUND OR YOUR WIFE OF SLEEPING
AROUND, OR WHATEVER HAPPENS TO
BE YOU WOULD HAVE TO CHALLENGE
THEM TO A DUEL.
AND IT WAS THOUGHT YOU KNOW YOU
BASICALLY HAVE TO PULL OUT YOUR
PISTOL OR YOUR SWORD BECAUSE IT
WAS THOUGHT TO BE BETTER TO TRY
AND KILL SOMEONE IN, IN THE
PURSUIT OF HONOUR AND STATUS.
RATHER THAN LET SOME BAD IDEA
ABOUT YOU SURVIVE IN THE MINDS
OF OTHER PEOPLE.
SO A VERY, VERY EXTREME
SENSITIVITY TO WHAT OTHER
PEOPLE THINK.
OF COURSE IT'S A VERY
EXHAUSTING WAY I THINK OF GOING
ABOUT THINGS.
I MEAN I KNOW AS A, AS A WRITER
IF YOU HAVE TO TRY AND KILL
EVERYONE WHO'S EVER HAD A BAD
THOUGHT ABOUT YOU --

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues YOU KNOW
YOUR SWORD WOULD BE BLOODY.
SO TO THAT'S REALLY QUITE
TIRING.
BUT I THINK ALSO IN THE WESTERN
TRADITION IF THE DUELERS WERE
AT ONE END OF THE SPECTRUM, AT
THE OTHER END OF THE SPECTRUM
THERE, THERE HAVE LONG BEEN TWO
VERY SIGNIFICANT TRADITIONS IN
THE WEST THAT HAVE ARGUED FOR A
DIFFERENT WAY OF GOING ABOUT
THINGS.
THESE TWO TRADITIONS HAVE
ARGUED THAT WHAT MATTERS IS NOT
NECESSARILY IMMEDIATELY WHAT
OTHER PEOPLE THINK, WHAT
MATTERS IS THERE IS A
DISTINCTION BETWEEN AS IT WERE
TRUTH AND OPINION.
THERE IS WHAT PEOPLE THINK AND
THERE IS WHAT THE SITUATION
MIGHT GENUINELY BE.
AND THERE IS, AND WE SHOULD
KEEP THAT DISTINCTION AT THE
FOREFRONT OF OUR MINDS AND BE
WORRIED BY THE TRUTH BUT NOT SO
WORRIED BY OPINION.
AND THESE TWO TRADITIONS BOTH
HAVE AT THEIR HEADS A MARTYR
FIGURE.
SOMEONE WHO GOES TO THEIR
DEATH, TO HIS DEATH WITH
EVERYONE AROUND HATING HIM AND
YET MAINTAINING A FAITH, AN
INDEPENDENT FAITH IN THE VALUE
OF HIS PROJECT.
I'M THINKING ON THE ONE HAND OF
CHRISTIANITY WITH JESUS AND ON
THE OTHER HAND OF PHILOSOPHY
WITH SOCRATES.
AND THERE'S REAL
CORRESPONDENCES BETWEEN THE,
THE DEATHS OF JESUS AND
SOCRATES DOWN THE AGES, VERY
MUCH COMPARED THESE TWO DEATHS
BECAUSE THEY ARE MARTYR DEATHS.
BUT THEY'RE ALSO DEATHS IN
WHICH SOMEONE HOLDS ONTO AN
IDEA OF HIS VALUE, INDEPENDENT
OF THE IMMEDIATE VERDICT OF
OTHER PEOPLE.
AND I THINK THESE TWO
TRADITIONS HAVE BEEN VERY, VERY
IMPORTANT IN OUR SENSE OF
SHAPING HOW WE MIGHT VIEW
OURSELVES.
AND WHEN I WAS WRITING THE BOOK
I CAME ACROSS A NUMBER OF
PHILOSOPHERS WHO SEEMED TO ME
TO EXEMPLIFY AN APPROACH, WHICH
I JUST FIND AS A KIND OF
INTELLIGENT MISANTHROPY.
A WAY OF NOT LISTENING SO MUCH
TO OTHER PEOPLE.
BASED ON THE IDEA THAT YOU
SHOULD PERHAPS LOOK AT HOW
OTHER PEOPLE ARE THINKING AND
WHAT'S, WHAT'S ACTUALLY GOING
ON IN THE MINDS OF OTHER PEOPLE
BEFORE GETTING UPSET ABOUT WHAT
THEY THINK ABOUT YOU.
AND SO IN THE WORK OF MANY
PHILOSOPHERS THERE'S ALWAYS THE
ENCOURAGEMENT --
TO NOT
RESPECT OTHER PEOPLE.
TO KIND OF THINK THAT OTHER
PEOPLE ARE A BIT STUPID AND TO
USE THAT THOUGHT NOT, NOT A
SORT OF, NOT FOR A SORT OF
WILLFUL MISANTHROPY --
BUT RATHER
AS A WAY OF FREEING YOURSELF OF
SOME OF THE PRESSURES THAT COME
FROM THINKING YOU KNOW OTHER
PEOPLE MUST ALWAYS KNOW.
I MUST ALWAYS TRY AND
INGRATIATE MYSELF WITH OTHER
PEOPLE.
THIS IDEA THAT YOU KNOW MAYBE
YOU SHOULD HATE PEOPLE AS MUCH
AS THEY HATE YOU SOMETIMES AND
MAYBE THAT'S FINE.
MAYBE THAT'S ALL PART OF THE
GOOD LIFE, A LITTLE BIT OF
HATRED DIRECTED AT OTHER
PEOPLE.
A LITTLE BIT OF NOT CARING
ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE ARE
THINKING BECAUSE MAYBE YOU KNOW
THEY'RE NOT WORTH RESPECTING.
AND I THINK, I THINK IT'S AN
ODD FEATURE OF THE WAY WE'RE
BUILT THAT WE OFTEN WANT TO BE
ADMIRED BY PEOPLE, WAY BEFORE
WE ADMIRE THEM.
WE WANT THE RESPECT OF PEOPLE
WHO DON'T EVEN RESPECT
OURSELVES.
WE DON'T EVEN ASK OURSELVES
WHETHER WE RESPECT THEM.
WE SIMPLY WANT THEIR, THEIR
RESPECT.
AND SO I THINK IN THE WORK OF
MANY PHILOSOPHERS YOU FIND A
CHALLENGE TO THAT.
ONE OF MY FAVOURITE
PHILOSOPHERS FOR THIS IS THE
GERMAN 19TH CENTURY THINKER,
ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER.
AND IN HIS WORK THERE WERE
WONDERFUL, WONDERFULLY CAUSTIC
PASSAGES TELLING US NOT TO
LISTEN TO EVERYONE BECAUSE
EVERYONE'S VERY STUPID, AND YOU
KNOW REALLY YOU SHOULDN'T
LISTEN TO WHAT OTHER PEOPLE
THINK.
AND SCHOPENHAUER REALLY
PRACTICED AS HE PREACHED.
HE WAS INCREDIBLY MISANTHROPIC,
HARDLY EVER WENT OUT AND, AND
REALLY SORT OF KEPT, KEPT ALOOF
FROM SOCIETY BUT IN A VERY, I
THINK IN A VERY SORT OF USEFUL
AND INVIGORATING WAY.
I THINK THERE ARE ALWAYS TIMES
WHEN PERHAPS WE, WE NEED TO
LISTEN A LITTLE LESS TO WHAT
PEOPLE MIGHT BE SAYING.
LET ME READ YOU A LITTLE BIT
FROM THIS VERY, VERY GRUMPY
GERMAN ABOUT HOW WE SHOULD HATE
OTHER PEOPLE.
HE SAYS WE WILL GRADUALLY
BECOME INDIFFERENT TO WHAT GOES
ON IN THE MINDS OF OTHER PEOPLE
AROUND US.
WHEN WE START TO ACQUIRE AN
ADEQUATE KNOWLEDGE OF THE
SUPERFICIAL, FUTILE AND STUPID
NATURE OF MANY OF THEIR
THOUGHTS, OF THE NARROWNESS OF
THEIR VIEWS, OF THE PALTRINESS
OF THEIR SENTIMENTS AND OF THE
PERVERSITY OF THEIR OPINIONS.
THE EARTH QUITE SIMPLY SWARMS
WITH PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT WORTH
TALKING TO.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says AND, AND
WHAT WHEN HE SAYS YOU KNOW YOU,
YOU REALLY SHOULDN'T LISTEN TO
WHAT THE PUBLIC SAYS.
HE SAYS YOU KNOW WILL, WILL A
MUSICIAN FEEL FLATTERED BY THE
LOUD APPLAUSE OF HIS AUDIENCE
IF IT WERE KNOWN TO HIM WITH
THE, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF ONE
OR TWO PEOPLE IT CONSISTED
ENTIRELY OF DEAF PEOPLE?
SO THEN, YOU KNOW MOST PEOPLE,
NOT, NOT YOU OF COURSE, BUT
THEN MOST PEOPLE ARE DEAF SO
YOU SHOULDN'T WORRY SO MUCH
WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK.
I THINK ONE OF THE THINGS, YOU
KNOW IF YOU TALK TO OLDER
PEOPLE ONE OF THE THINGS THAT
THEY OFTEN SAY IS YOU KNOW THE
NICE THING ABOUT GROWING OLD IS
YOU WORRY LESS WHAT OTHER
PEOPLE THINK ABOUT YOU.
AND I THINK THAT'S NOT TO SAY
THAT YOU KNOW YOU DON'T WORRY
ABOUT WHAT ANYONE THINKS ABOUT
YOU.
RATHER YOU'RE MORE TARGETED IN
WHO YOU WILL LISTEN TO AND WHO
YOU WON'T LISTEN TO.
AND I THINK THAT'S A REAL
ACHIEVEMENT, I MEAN NOT, NOT
EVERYONE MANAGES THIS.
IT'S NOT, IT'S NOT AN AUTOMATIC
SORT OF VICTORY THAT COMES
WITH, WITH AGE.
I THINK IT'S AN ACHIEVEMENT OF
MATURITY.
IT'S A KIND OF WISDOM.
AND I THINK THAT'S YOU KNOW ONE
OF THE KINDS OF WISDOM THAT
MANY PHILOSOPHERS HAVE LONG
ARGUED FOR AND, AND THAT IS, I
THINK A HUGELY VALUABLE LESSON.
ANOTHER RESPONSE THAT PEOPLE
HAVE MADE DOWN THE AGES TO, TO
STATUS ANXIETY HAS COME IN MANY
WORKS OF ART.
AND IF YOU LOOK AT MANY WORKS
OF ART THERE ARE ALMOST
CHALLENGES TO THE DOMINANT
STATUS SYSTEM THAT OFTEN IS AT
LARGE AROUND IN A SOCIETY IN
WHICH THESE, IN WHICH THESE
WORKS OF ART ARE CREATED.
AND IF YOU LOOK AT MANY LET'S
SAY 19TH CENTURY NOVELS, THE
HEROES AND HEROINES OF 19TH
CENTURY NOVELS ARE VERY RARELY
PEOPLE OF HIGH STATUS.
THEY'RE OFTEN PEOPLE OF
INCREDIBLY ORDINARY STATUS.
THEY'RE YOU KNOW BAKERS,
MILLINERS, STONEMASONS,
ETCETERA.
AND YET WITHIN THE NOVEL, AS IT
WERE THE NOVELIST IS ABLE TO
DIRECT US TOWARDS THE VALUE AND
WORTH OF PEOPLE WHO IN ORDINARY
LIFE ARE OFTEN PASSED OVER,
AND, AND NOT TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
AND IT'S ALMOST AS THOUGH MANY
WORKS OF ART GUIDE US TO
APPRECIATE PEOPLE THAT CORRECT
OUR, OUR PERHAPS MORE SNOBBISH
IMPULSES AND THEY TEACH US
WHERE VALUE LIES IN PLACES THAT
PERHAPS WE PREVIOUSLY HADN'T,
HADN'T SEEN THIS.
SO THERE'S ALMOST A SUBVERSIVE
OR A POLITICAL, POLITICALLY
SUBVERSIVE ELEMENT TO MUCH
FICTION IN WHICH CHARACTERS WHO
IN THE WORLD OUTSIDE THE NOVEL
WOULD HAVE QUITE HIGH STATUS,
WITHIN THE NOVEL HAVE QUITE LOW
STATUS AND VICE VERSA.
SO INTERESTING CHALLENGES THERE
TO THE STATUS SYSTEM IN WORKS
OF ART.
I THINK THERE'S A PARTICULAR
ART FORM OF TRAGEDY, WHICH IS
ALMOST DEDICATED TO TELLING
STORIES OF PEOPLE WHO'VE LOST
STATUS.
AND IF YOU LOOK AT MOST WORKS
OF TRAGEDY, THEY'RE, THEY'RE
STORIES OF PEOPLE WHO FOR ONE
REASON OR ANOTHER HAVE BEEN
DISGRACED, HAVE LOST THEIR
MONEY.
HAVE HAD TO PAY FOR SOME ERROR
WITH THEIR LIVES, WHO'VE,
WHO'VE EXPERIENCED A SUDDEN
DROP IN STATUS.
AND YET WITHIN THESE WORKS OF
TRAGEDY THIS LOSS OF STATUS IS
HANDLED IN AN EXTREMELY,
SYMPATHETIC, COMPLEX AND
UNDERSTANDING WAY.
AND IT'S ALMOST, IT'S, IT'S SO
AT ODDS WITH THE WAY THAT
GENERALLY IN LIFE WE
EXPERIENCE, WE DESCRIBE STORIES
OF FAILURE.
YOU KNOW PEOPLE WHO HAVE FAILED
IN LIFE ARE OFTEN GIVEN
INCREDIBLY, HARSH TREATMENT.
THEIR STORIES ARE SUMMED UP IN
ONE OR TWO SENTENCES.
AND YET IN WORKS OF TRAGEDY
WE'RE, WE'RE ABLE TO ACCORD A
KIND OF RESPECT AND SENSITIVITY
TO PEOPLE WHO FAILED, THAT'S
QUITE AT ODDS WITH WHAT, WHAT
NORMALLY GOES ON.
I MEAN IT WOULD BE, IT WOULD BE
VERY UNUSUAL TO SAY TO LEAVE A
PERFORMANCE OF “HAMLET” AND SAY
YOU KNOW THE GUY WAS A LOSER.
TO DESCRIBE HAMLET AS A LOSER.

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues YOU KNOW
IT'S ALMOST AS IF SHAKESPEARE
HAS DONE THE QUITE THE OPPOSITE
TO, TO GUIDE US TOWARDS A VALUE
TOWARDS A SYMPATHY THERE THAT
WE MIGHT OTHERWISE HAVE, HAVE
MISSED.
WHEN I WAS WRITING THIS BOOK
ACTUALLY I --

Alain says I TRIED TO
THINK OF WHERE IN MODERN
SOCIETY WE COME ACROSS THE
HARSHEST ATTITUDES TOWARDS
THOSE WHO'VE FAILED, WHO'VE
MESSED UP THEIR LIVES IN SOME
WAY.
AND I
THOUGHT, CERTAINLY IN BRITAIN
IT'S THE TABLOID NEWSPAPER.
YOU KNOW IF YOU LOOK AT TABLOID
NEWSPAPERS THEY'RE FULL OF
STORIES OF PEOPLE WHO'VE MESSED
UP THEIR LIVES IN SOME WAY.
WHO SUDDENLY LOST THEIR STATUS.
YOU KNOW THEY'VE, THEY'VE
CHEATED ON THEIR PARTNERS.
THEY'VE SENT A TEXT MESSAGE TO
THE WRONG PERSON.

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues AND
SUDDENLY YOU KNOW THEIR STATUS
HAS BEEN LOST.
AND THEIR, THEIR FATE IS
GHOULISHLY REPRESENTED ON PAGE
AFTER PAGE AND ALMOST
CELEBRATED IN A, IN A VERY,
TOUGH AND OFTEN VERY NASTY WAY,
AND COMPARE THAT WITH THE WORKS
OF, OF TRAGEDY.
SO WHAT I, WHAT I DID, I WENT
TO TALK TO THE EDITORS OF ONE
OF THE MOST VIRULENT OF, OF, OF
BRITISH NEWSPAPERS, THE SUNDAY
SPORT, WHICH IS FULL OF STORIES
OF PEOPLE WHO'VE YOU KNOW
RUINED THEIR LIVES.
AND I SAID TO THEM, YOU KNOW
TRY AND IMAGINE HOW WOULD YOU
DESCRIBE THE STORIES OF PEOPLE
WHO'VE FAILED THAT YOU FIND IN
MANY WORKS OF WESTERN TRAGEDY?
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THESE
STORIES IF THE BARE BONES OF
THE STORY WERE TO COME INTO THE
NEWSROOM?
YOU KNOW IF ON A, ON A FRIDAY
YOU GOT SOME OF THESE STORIES
THAT WE KNOW FROM TRAGIC WORKS
OF ART, YOU KNOW WHAT SORT OF A
HEADLINE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM?
AND SO I, I GAVE THEM THE, THE
PLOT, THE PLOTLINE OF
“OTHELLO.”
AND I SAID YOU KNOW HOW WOULD
YOU WRITE THIS UP AS A
HEADLINE?
YOU KNOW AND THEY CAME UP WITH
LOVE, CRAZED IMMIGRANT KILLS
SENATOR'S DAUGHTER.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says YOU KNOW
THAT WAS SUNDAY SPORT ON, YOU
KNOW ON “OTHELLO.”
I, I GAVE THEM A, I GAVE THEM
FLAUBERT'S “MADAME BOVARY.”
I SAID YOU KNOW HOW WOULD YOU
WRITE UP THE STORY?
AND THEY SAID SHOPAHOLIC,
ADULTRESS SWALLOWS ARSENIC
AFTER CREDIT FRAUD.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says IN FACT A
SENSATIONAL HEADLINE.
AND THEN, AND THEN I GAVE THEM
SOPHOCLES' “OEDIPUS THE KING.”
THIS IS MY FAVOURITE.
I SHOULD, I SHOULD PERHAPS
EXPLAIN, I DON'T KNOW HOW IT
WORKS IN CANADIAN ENGLISH, BUT,
THE, THE WORD BLINDING IN, IN
ENGLISH, ENGLISH CAN REFER NOT
YOU KNOW TO BE BLINDED.
BUT ALSO THE WORD BLINDING CAN
SUGGEST TERRIFIC.
YOU KNOW IF I SAID YOU KNOW I
HAD A BLINDING DAY AT THE BEACH
IT SUGGESTS YOU KNOW A GREAT
DAY, THE WEATHER WAS WARM AND
THE SEA WAS NICE.
SO BLINDING BOTH GREAT AND THE
BLINDED.
SO SOPHOCLES' “OEDIPUS THE
KING” THE SUNDAY SPORT CAME UP
WITH SEX WITH MOM WAS BLINDING.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says SO ALMOST
THE SORT OF DIAMETRIC OPPOSITE
OF, OF THE KIND OF SYMPATHY
THAT YOU MIGHT THAT SOPHOCLES
WOULD HAVE WROTE.
TO SAY JUST A FEW, A FEW LAST
THINGS.
I THINK ANOTHER TRADITIONAL WAY
IN WHICH PEOPLE HAVE CALMED
DOWN ABOUT THEIR ANXIETIES
ABOUT THEIR STATUS HAS BEEN TO
REFLECT AND I DON'T MEAN TO
DEPRESS YOU OR SOUND
UNNECESSARILY MORBID, BUT ONE
OF THE WAYS IN WHICH PEOPLE
HAVE CALMED DOWN ABOUT THEIR
ANXIETIES CONCERNING STATUS HAS
BEEN TO REFLECT ON THE WAY THAT
WE DON'T HAVE THAT MUCH LONGER
LEFT TO LIVE.

[Audience laughs]

Alain continues TO THINK
ABOUT YOUR DEATH AND IT'S
POSSIBLY UPCOMING NATURE IS, IS
HAS BEEN A TRADITIONALLY
WONDERFUL, WAY OF CALMING DOWN
ABOUT STATUS BECAUSE ONE OF THE
THINGS THAT ANYONE'S WHO'S EVER
HAD A NEAR BRUSH WITH DEATH
WILL TELL YOU IS THAT DEATH
REFOCUSES YOUR PRIOTIES OFTEN.
IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BUT VERY
OFTEN.
SOME THINGS COME TO SEEM VERY
IMPORTANT AND SOME THINGS COME
TO SEEM LESS IMPORTANT.
AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT
COMES TO SEEM LESS IMPORTANT
OFTEN, NOT ALWAYS BUT OFTEN IS
STATUS.
WHAT THE NEIGHBOURS THINK.
WHAT YOU KNOW WHAT PEOPLE ARE
THINKING AROUND YOU.
AND THERE TENDS TO BE MUCH MORE
OF A FOCUS THEN ON INNER
EXPERIENCE, ON FRIENDSHIP, ON
CERTAIN KIND OF CAREER GOALS
INDEPENDENT OF STATUS,
ETCETERA.
SO I THINK A REAL WAY IN WHICH
DEATH CAN BE USED TO FOCUS OUR
PRIORITIES, YOU KNOW FOR
CENTURIES IT WAS CONSIDERED
VERY, A VERY HELPFUL THING TO
DO TO PUT A SKULL ON YOUR TABLE
OR ON YOUR LIBRARY SHELVES.
SO THAT AS YOU WERE GOING ABOUT
THE BUSINESS OF THE DAY YOU
COULD OCCASIONALLY LOOK OVER AT
YOUR SKULL AND THINK YOU KNOW
IN NOT, IN NOT TOO LONG I'LL BE
LIKE HIM.
AND THAT WOULD HELP YOU TO, TO
FOCUS.
AND I THINK TO THINK ABOUT
DEATH IS ALSO QUITE USEFUL IN
RELATION TO YOUR SOCIAL LIFE.
YOU KNOW IF SOME OF YOU HAVE
FEEL THAT YOU HAVE TOO MANY
FRIENDS, YOU KNOW THERE'S TOO
MANY PEOPLE TO SEE.
TOO MANY PARTIES TO GO TO,
ETCETERA, ONE OF THE WONDERFUL
WAYS OF CULLING YOUR SOCIAL
DIARY IS TO REFLECT ON WHO
AMONG YOUR ACQUAINTANCES WOULD
MAKE IT TO YOUR HOSPITAL BED IF
YOU WERE DIAGNOSED WITH A FATAL
ILLNESS.
FOR ME I THINK I'VE ALWAYS
FANCIED THIS AS A WONDERFUL WAY
OF EMPTYING OUT THE DIARY OF
SUPERFLUOUS ENGAGEMENTS.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says SO THE
OUGHT OF DEATH, THE, THE,
THOUGHT OF DEATH AND YOU KNOW A
VERY, VERY VALUABLE ROLE TO
PLAY IN, IN HELPING US OVER
STATUS.
ALSO I THINK IT'S, IT'S DEATH
CAN BE USEFUL NOT JUST TO THINK
ABOUT YOUR OWN DEATH.
BUT ANOTHER REALLY GOOD
SOLUTION TO, TO STATUS ANXIETY
IS TO REFLECT ON THE FACT THAT
OTHER PEOPLE WILL SOON ALSO BE
DEAD.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says
PARTICULARLY THOSE PEOPLE WHO
ARE NOW GIVING YOU A LOT OF
STATUS ANXIETY.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says THEY TOO,
THEY TOO WILL BE DEAD.
[Audience laughing]

Alain says AND YOU
KNOW THERE'S A LONG TRADITION
IN, IN, IN EUROPEAN THOUGHT OF
PEOPLE GOING OUT TO LET'S SAY,
SEE THE RUINS OF ANCIENT
GREECE, ANCIENT ROME, ANCIENT
EGYPT AND REFLECTING HOW YOU
KNOW THE, THE KINGS AND THE
PEASANTS YOU KNOW THE COMMONERS
AND THE ROYALS, HAVE ALL ENDED
UP AS THAT MOST DEMOCRATIC OF
SUBSTANCES, DUST.
FOR DEATH IS THIS GREAT
EQUALIZING FORCE.
THAT TRADITIONALLY HAS BEEN A
VERY IMPORTANT IDEA.
AND REALLY I THINK THAT BEHIND
ALL THIS TALK OF DEATH IS
REALLY, PERSPECTIVE.
THE WAY IN WHICH THERE ARE
CERTAIN THOUGHTS THAT CAN
RESTORE PERSPECTIVE TO US.
AND I THINK IT'S, IT'S A
FEATURE OF LIVING IN CITIES, OF
READING A LOT OF NEWSPAPERS, OF
LOOKING AT A LOT OF TELEVISION
THAT WE CAN SOMETIMES ACCORD
GREAT IMPORTANCE TO THE PRESENT
MOMENT.
TO WHO'S IN AND WHO'S OUT AND
WHAT MATTERS RIGHT NOW,
ETCETERA.
AND I THINK ANYTHING WHICH CAN
TAKE YOU SLIGHTLY AWAY FROM
THAT, WHICH CAN RESTORE
PERSPECTIVE, WHICH CAN GIVE YOU
A VANTAGE POINT ON, ON YOUR
SITUATION WHICH IS SLIGHTLY
OLDER, LONGER, ETCETERA, CAN
BE, CAN BE A TERRIFIC SOURCE OF
RELIEF FROM PRESSURES OF STATUS
ANXIETY.

Alain says AND THAT'S
WHY I THINK YOU KNOW ANOTHER
THING, I, I WILL BE VERY BRIEF,
ANOTHER THING HAS TRADITIONALLY
BEEN TO GO OUT INTO NATURE AND
TO GO OUT INTO YOU KNOW GO FOR
A WALK IN, IN THE MOUNTAINS.
GO AND LOOK AT A GLACIER.
GO OUT ONTO
THE OCEAN.
GO OUT AND SEE THESE THINGS
THAT ARE BIGGER THAN ANY HUMAN
BEING, AND THEY CAN MAKE YOU
FEEL SMALL BUT IN A GOOD WAY.
AND I THINK AND AS I SAY
RESTORE A KIND OF PERSPECTIVE.
LET ME READ YOU A LITTLE BIT
WHERE I TALK ABOUT THE
PERPECTIVE GIVING NATURE OF, OF
NATURE.

Alain reads from his book.

Alain says UM, “I SAID VAST LANDSCAPES, CAN
HAVE AN ANXIETY REDUCING EFFECT
SIMILAR TO RUINS, FOR THEY ARE
THE REPRESENTATIVES OF INFINITE
SPACE, AS RUINS ARE THE
REPRESENTATIVES OF INFINITE
TIME.
AGAINST WHICH OUR WEAK, SHORT-
LIVED BODIES CAN SEEM NO LESS
INCONSEQUENTIAL THAN THOSE OF
MOTHS OF SPIDERS.
WHATEVER DIFFERENCES EXIST
BETWEEN PEOPLE THEY ARE AS
NOTHING NEXT TO THE DIFFERENCES
BETWEEN THE MOST POWERFUL
HUMANS AND THE GREAT, DESERTS,
HIGH MOUNTAINS, GLACIERS AND
OCEANS OF THE WORLD.
THERE ARE NATURAL PHENOMENA SO
LARGE AS TO MAKE THE VARIATIONS
BETWEEN ANY TWO PEOPLE SEEM
MOCKINGLY SMALL.
BY SPENDING TIME IN VAST SPACES
A SENSE OF OUR INSIGNIFICANCE
IN THE SOCIAL HIERARCHY CAN BE
SUBSUED IN A CONSOLING SENSE OF
THE INSIGNIFICANCE OF ALL
HUMANS WITHIN THE COSMOS.
WE CAN OVERCOME A FEELING OF
UNIMPORTANCE, NOT BY MAKING
OURSELVES MORE IMPORTANT BUT BY
RECOGNIZING THE RELATIVE
UNIMPORTANCE OF EVERYONE.
OUR CONCERN WITH WHO IS A FEW
MILLIMETRES TALLER THAN US CAN
GIVE WAY TO AN AWE FOR THINGS A
THOUSAND, A MILLION TIMES
LARGER THAN US.
A FORCE WHICH WE MAY BE MOVED
TO CALL INFINITY, ETERNITY OR
SIMPLY AND PERHAPS MOST
TRADITIONALLY, GOD.”
SO I THINK THE IDEA OF
SOMETHING LARGER THAN MAN
HAVING AN IMPORTANT AND
PRIVILEGED ROLE TO PLAY IN, IN
RESTORING PERSPECTIVE.
AND I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO
RECOGNIZE THAT YOU KNOW WE'RE
ONE OF THE FIRST SOCIETIES TO
WORSHIP ONLY OTHER HUMAN
BEINGS, ONLY OTHER HUMAN
ACHIEVEMENTS.
AT THE CENTER OF OUR CULTURE IS
THE CULT OF THE HUMAN,
TECHNOLOGICAL PROGRESS, HUMAN
INTELLIGENCE ETCETERA.
AND THIS IS OF COURSE VERY
DIFFERENT FROM ANY PREVIOUS YOU
KNOW SOCIETY.
MOST ALMOST ALL SOCIETIES THAT
HAVE EVER EXISTED HAVE ALWAYS
HAD RIGHT AT THEIR CENTER A
WORSHIP OF SOMETHING NON-HUMAN.
A KIND OF GOD FIGURE, NATURE, A
SPIRIT, A DEITY, SOMETHING NON-
HUMAN.
AND YET WE
DON'T HAVE THIS, AND I THINK
THAT, THAT PLAYS A, THAT HAS A
ROLE TO PLAY IN, IN OUR STATUS
ANXIETIES.
TO FINISH WITH IT, I GUESS I'D
SAY THIS BOOK IS ALL ABOUT THE
WORD SUCCESS AND WHAT WE MIGHT
MEAN BY THAT.
I MEAN I'M PERSONALLY VERY
INTERESTED IN --
BEING VERY
SUCCESSFUL.
I'M A VERY AMBITIOUS PERSON.
BUT BEFORE YOU KNOW WE COME TO
ANY VIEWS ABOUT WHAT I MIGHT
MEAN BY THAT, I THINK IT'S
IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE THE
EXTENT TO WHICH, OUR, OUR
COMMON SENSE UNDERSTANDING OF
THE WORD SUCCESS.
IT'S FREIGHTED AND LOADED WITH
ALL SORTS OF ASSUMPTIONS, WHICH
MAY NOT ACTUALLY STAND UP TO
SCRUTINY.
I MEAN IF I SAID THERE WAS A,
VERY, A, A SUCCESSFUL PERSON
YOU KNOW STANDING OUT IN THE
HALL YOU MIGHT IMAGINE SOMEONE
WHO WAS YOU KNOW SAY IN
BUSINESS.
SOMEONE WHO HAD ACHIEVED
REKNOWN.
SOMEONE WHO WAS RICH, ETCETERA.
AND OF COURSE THAT IS ONE MODEL
AND ONE POSSIBLE INTERPRETATION
OF THE WORD SUCCESS BUT THE
WORD SUCCESS ISN'T EXHAUSTED BY
THAT.
AND I THINK THAT YOU KNOW ONE
OF THE MESSAGES OF THE BOOK IS
TO SAY OF COURSE THE SEARCH FOR
STATUS IS A NORMAL AND NATURAL
THING, AND THE SEARCH FOR
SUCCESS IS AS WELL.
BUT WE SHOULD PERHAPS TAKE CARE
TO ENSURE THAT WE'RE NOT
SUCKING IN AN IDEA OF SUCCESS
UNCRITICALLY FROM THE WORLD
AROUND US.
AND THAT ACTUALLY THAT OUR, OUR
GOALS OF SUCCESS ARE ONES THAT
WE GENUINELY AGREE WITH.
BECAUSE I THINK IT'S VERY
POSSIBLE TO SUCK IN IDEAS OF
WHAT IT IS TO HAVE A GOOD LIFE
ALMOST UNCRITICALLY FROM THE
ENVIRONMENT.
YOU KNOW OPEN ANY MAGAZINE OR,
OR NEWSPAPER AND THERE'S OFTEN
THE SUGGESTION OF A GOOD LIFE.
YOU KNOW, A GOOD MARRIAGE, A
GOOD JOB, A, A GOOD HOLIDAY.
LOTS OF SUGGESTIONS ABOUT YOU
KNOW BEING A GOOD PERSON.
AND SOME OF THESE IMAGES OF
SUCCESS AND GOODNESS ARE IN
FACT INCREDIBLY UNLIKELY AND
REMOTE FROM WHAT WE ACTUALLY
NEED AND WHAT WE ASPIRE TO.
SO, I GUESS THAT MY MESSAGE IS
YOU KNOW SUCCESS, YES.
BUT LET'S TAKE CARE TO EXAMINE
THESE NOTIONS OF SUCCESS.
THESE NOTIONS OF STATUS AND
MAKE SURE THAT WE YOU KNOW WE
MIGHT ALL GO THROUGH PERIODS OF
ANXIETY.
BUT LET'S AT LEAST ENSURE THAT
WE'RE BEING ANXIOUS ABOUT THE
RIGHT THINGS.
BECAUSE I THINK A PARTICULAR
POIGNANCY IN ENVYING AND BEING
ANXIOUS FOR THINGS THAT
WOULDN'T MAKE YOU, EVEN MAKE US
HAPPY EVEN IF WE, EVEN IF WE
GOT THEM.
THANK YOU VERY, MUCH FOR
LISTENING.

[Audience applauding]

Watch: Alain de Botton on Status Anxiety