Self-Love Makes Us Irritated Seeing Standards of Living Superior to Our Own

December 13, 2018

By Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira

All of us are inclined to pick on standards of living superior to ours as superfluous. This comes from self-love: “I live entirely well with what suffices to me, so why does so-and-so want more than he needs? He is vain! Proud! Does he think he is more than me?” Or, even worse: “What a fool! He is misled by advertising. He allowed himself to be persuaded that paté de foie gras is good when onion dip is better.”

Foie gras

And the thing circulates. If we say that pâté is something refined, he replies: “Refined nothing! You’ve been reading too much literature! Bean soup is the real thing! You stuff yourself with a good feijoada [a very tasty, popular Brazilian traditional black bean and pork dish] and later need no dinner. Here you come with your refined pâté on toast! This is something effeminate and stupid!”

I cannot forget an episode that happened when I was a lad. I went to a farm somewhere here in the interior of São Paulo that had plenty of red topsoil. The farmhouse had only two sinks, one in the bathroom and the other in the dining room. If we were in a hurry, then we had to wash our face in the dining room where people were eating or drinking coffee.

Feijoada. Photo by raphaelstrada

So I washed my hands and face there and inadvertently dropped the towel on the floor full or red dust. “Oh goodness me, I have to ask for another towel now,” I said. Upon hearing this, three or four lads my age started laughing: “Send for another towel? Just because of this dust? You will be covered in it out there! You might as well wipe your face with it.”  As I protested and they figured the spat would turn into an incident, they quipped: “Well, since you had a very fine upbringing you are unable to bear the things we endure.” This was their concept of a very fine education.

Thus, to not smear your face with red ground dust is most refined and superfluous. This is a concept of a certain thing and a certain state of mind. This state of mind comes from this egalitarian concept: “What is enough for me is enough for absolutely everyone, and that stupid Queen of Denmark is pretentious and proud for wishing to ride in a carriage with crystal wheels when my mother drives around with Goodyear tires on her car, and that is good enough.”

Goodyear Tires

So another thing is to understand that there are requirements of refinement and good taste that we do not understand but that does not make us fools but sagacious, as we perceive the difference. We have to take an attitude of humility and understanding toward what we were unable to understand.

(Excerpt from a Saint of the Day, Tuesday, April 19, 1966 – translation)

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