tee it up: triple bogey on consumption

Throughout history, people have often been idle, and they have always had holidays. Even in the darkest periods of the Dark Ages, the rich hunted, jousted, sang, danced and made love. The peasants gorged, got drunk and cavorted. Yet, true leisure must have its regular and acknowledged hours of work, which requires a sophisticated commercial and industrial society. For many centuries, leisure was a way for the rich to dispel boredom. With the industrial revolution a pseudo gentry and upper middle class was created and leisure slowly and steadily became an industry. Eccentricity, like exhibitionism , is released in a leisured world. Only the idle rich can easily be themselves….

William Inglis by David Allen. 1787.follwing quote pertains to the character Baggar Vance inthe Robert Redford film. Could it equally apply to Tiger Woods?:Mr. Smith, speaking in exaggerated Southern black dialect, seems to have strolled out of the last five minutes of Spike Lee's ''Bamboozled,'' a brief, painful anthology of the ways African-American performers have been mocked and demeaned in the movies of the past. His character, with no history and no connections, exists for the sole purpose of serving a white man's needs. ...read more:http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9400E6D81E30F930A35752C1A9669C8B63 image:http://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/online_az/4:322/result/0/68041?initial=L&artistId=2977&artistName=Charles%20Lees&submit=1

At the heart of the Great Gatsby and implicit in other works by F.Scott Fitzgerald was a central insight to what Thorstein Veblen termed “conspicuous consumption.” Fitzgerald had a clear understanding that the twentieth century was to take elements of the American mythology of individualism, circumvent its intention and then embed it within a structure of consumerism, financial and real estate speculation and the rise of different strains of the leisure class and the “good life” which would color bourgeois thinking. The idealism of the early settlers and the vision of the founding fathers would quickly mutate into a consumerist ideology, one which was apparent to De Tocqueville and later further articulated by Thoreau. Liberty, freedom and the pursuit of happiness would morph into a series of choices about where one plays golf and what to wear, and who could join.


---Golf arrived in Cuba in the 1920s and was associated with the Americanised elite. When the revolution triumphed in 1959, Havana had three courses. Fidel, though not keen on the game, played Guevara in 1962 as a publicity stunt. Jose Lorenzo Fuentes, a reporter who covered the event, said the two revolutionaries were hyper-competitive. Fidel, a bad loser, resented being beaten even though his deputy had more experience from caddying in his youth in Argentina.--- click image for more...


…Where Tiger would provide the crafted corporate sound bite, Earl could be relied upon to shatter the peace with pronouncements that left the rest of Team Woods aghast. Five years have passed since his death from prostate cancer, but this wizened old Vietnam vet’s description of Scotland remains quite brilliantly brutal.

“It’s for white people,” he once said. “People had better be glad that the Scots lived there instead of the soul brothers, or golf would never have been invented. We wouldn’t have been stupid enough to go out in that weather, play a silly-ass game and freeze to death.” Read More:http://www.nationalpost.com/news/Tiger+time/4809266/story.html

Veblen: The propensity may in large measure be overborne by the more immediately constraining incentive to a reputable leisure and an avoidance of indecorous usefulness, and it may therefore work itself out in make-believe only; as for instance in "social duties," and in quasi-artistic or quasi-scholarly accomplishments, in the care and decoration of the house, in sewing-circle activity or dress reform, in proficiency at dress, cards, yachting, golf, and various sports. But the fact that it may under stress of circumstances eventuate in inanities no more disproves the presence of the instinct than the reality of the brooding instinct is disproved by inducing a hen to sit on a nestful of china eggs. click image for more...

What we see with golf, as a metaphor for the nature of consumer society, is that the consumption of the activity is not about conformism, its about distinction from the masses and among the masses. The clubs people belong to set them apart from others; the equipment they own and who they play with. Golf is a metaphor for the axiom that comparative preferences generate competitive consumption and what matters is the competitive structure of this consumption.

…For a while I lost sight of Jordan Baker, and then in midsummer I found her again. At first I was flattered to go places with her, because she was a golf champion, and every one knew her name. Then it was something more. I wasn’t actually in love, but I felt a sort of tender curiosity. The bored haughty face that she turned to the world concealed something — most affectations conceal something eventually, even though they don’t in the beginning — and one day I found what it was. When we were on a house-party together up in Warwick, she left a borrowed car out in the rain with the top down, and then lied about it — and suddenly I remembered the story about her that had eluded me that

t at Daisy’s. At her first big golf tournament there was a row that nearly reached the newspapers — a suggestion that she had moved her ball from a bad lie in the semi-final round. The thing approached the proportions of a scandal — then died away. A caddy retracted his statement, and the only other witness admitted that he might have been mistaken. The incident and the name had remained together in my mind… ( F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby)

"Madam, please keep your eye on the ball!" The first kolf lesson, 17th century Flemish painting from an unknown master. (Courtesy Christies’ Images, London, and Golf Through The Ages) Read More:http://www.golftoday.co.uk/history/golf_the_true_history_4.html

F.Scott Fitzgeral, Winter Dreams:Dexter knew that there was something dismal about this Northern spring, just as he knew there was something gorgeous about the fall. Fall made him clinch his hands and tremble and repeat idiotic sentences to himself, and make brisk abrupt gestures of command to imaginary audiences and armies. October filled him with hope which November raised to a sort of ecstatic triumph, and in this mood the fleeting brilliant impressions of the summer at Sherry Island were ready grist to his mill. He became a golf champion and defeated Mr. T. A. Hedrick in a marvellous match played a hundred times over the fairways of his imagination, a match each detail of which he changed about untiringly–sometimes he won with almost laughable ease, sometimes he came up magnificently from behind. Again, stepping from a Pierce-Arrow automobile, like Mr. Mortimer Jones, he strolled frigidly into the lounge of the Sherry Island Golf Club– or perhaps, surrounded by an admiring crowd, he gave an exhibition of fancy diving from the spring-board of the club raft. . . . Among those who watched him in open-mouthed wonder was Mr. Mortimer Jones…..

---The next insight into Flemish colf is an eye-opener - a 'Eureka Moment' in the history of golf. For generations, the Scottish establishment has contended that the distinctive element that sets golf apart from all other earlier club and ball games is the putted scoring shot to a hole. An illumination from a Flemish prayer book dating from about 1480, depicts a kneeling golfer (the classic putting technique in Flanders), stroking a ball into the hole on a frozen canal. A copy of this scene painted in a breviary some twenty years later, confirms the existence of putting in Flemish colf. ---Read More:http://www.golftoday.co.uk/history/golf_the_true_history_4.html

….When he was twenty-three Mr. Hart–one of the gray-haired men who like to say “Now there’s a boy”–gave him a guest card to the Sherry Island Golf Club for a week-end. So he signed his name one day on the register, and that afternoon played golf in a foursome with Mr. Hart and Mr. Sandwood and Mr. T. A. Hedrick. He did not consider it necessary to remark that he had once carried Mr. Hart’s bag over this same links, and that he knew every trap and gully with his eyes shut–but he found himself glancing at the four caddies who trailed them, trying to catch a gleam or gesture that would remind him of himself, that would lessen the gap which lay between his present and his past….

---Almost half of the clubs that took part in the survey admitted that men and women are charged different fees for full membership - a policy they justify on the grounds that women can play for lower fees than their male counterparts, but one that carries with it restrictions on the time women are allowed play. The survey also found that Britain's golf clubs are as white as the greens are green. More than one-third of the clubs were found to be exclusively white, and that black or Asian membership of the remainder, which typically have around 500 members, averaged just 1 per cent. One inner-city club situated in an overwhelmingly ethnic area had no black members at all....---Read More:http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/golf/golf-still-a-game-of-us-and-them-691345.html image:http://www.golftoday.co.uk/history/golf_the_true_history_4.html

…It was a curious day, slashed abruptly with fleeting, familiar impressions. One minute he had the sense of being a trespasser–in the next he was impressed by the tremendous superiority he felt toward Mr. T. A. Hedrick, who was a bore and not even a good golfer any more.

Then, because of a ball Mr. Hart lost near the fifteenth green, an enormous thing happened. While they were searching the stiff grasses of the rough there was a clear call of “Fore!” from behind a hill in their rear. And as they all turned abruptly from their search a bright new ball sliced abruptly over the hill and caught Mr. T. A. Hedrick in the abdomen.

“By Gad!” cried Mr. T. A. Hedrick, “they ought to put some of these crazy women off the course. It’s getting to be outrageous.” Read More:http://www.sc.edu/fitzgerald/winterd/winter.html


Scottish Golfer. J.F. Abbott.1790.---Golf culture, uniquely rich in gossip and grudge, has a long way to go to modernise. The Royal and Ancient at St Andrew's - for millions of players the game's spiritual home - remains defiantly all-male. And, Golf World alleges, ladies at the 700-strong Gay Hill Golf Club in Worcestershire were outraged when a white line was painted on the men's bar floor last year, to keep the women out. A club spokesman denied this yesterday but conceded that there was a dispute over the restricted hours women were allowed to play....---Read More:http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/golf/golf-still-a-game-of-us-and-them-691345.html image:http://www.allposters.com/-sp/Scottish-Golfer-and-His-Caddy-Painting-by-J-F-Abbott-1790-Posters_i5130711_.htm

As Thorstein Veblen put it, the discrimination against women and “artisans” at the most prestigious country clubs is rooted in a complex process of rank and distinction:Thus men and women both work, yet male effort is reserved for domains of activity that involve some element of “exploit” (and thus “cannot without derogation be compared with the uneventful diligence of the women” [1899, 5]). The concept of “property,” extending beyond mere personal possession, emerges also during this stage, modeled on the relationship of domination toward women. Ownership begins with the domination of women (what we would now call “mate-guarding behavior”), and is subsequently extended to encompass physical objects. It is therefore, first and foremost, a system of rank. “Ownership began and grew into a human institution on grounds unrelated to the subsistence minimum. The dominant incentive was from the outset the invidious distinction attaching to wealth”(1899, 26).Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/veblen.pdf

CHarles Lees. The Golfers. ---In best patrician manner, Mr Jack explains that the division between the descendants of the cloth cap-wearing masses and the more affluent members of the main club is a harmonious arrangement. "They would limit their membership to the working class, though there is a police inspector and a shopkeeper. "There is a good rapport with our artisans," he says, "they do bunker-raking on Sunday mornings... they have their own clubhouse, their own competitions. They fit around the main activities of the club." But it's still very much a game of us and them. "They are not allowed to walk in front of the main clubhouse - it's one of the quaint things that we nor they see a need to change," says Mr Jack.---Read More:http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/golf/golf-still-a-game-of-us-and-them-691345.html image:http://www.nationalgalleries.org/collection/online_az/4:322/result/0/68041?initial=L&artistId=2977&artistName=Charles%20Lees&submit=1

Heath:More importantly, Veblen argues that the upper classes cannot be held responsible for the structure of the class system, since that structure is upheld and reproduced through a system of emulation that occurs at all levels of society. What they can be held responsible for is the specific content that gets propagated through this system of emulation – the habits and ideas that are promoted. It is here that its most pernicious influence is felt. The problem arises as a consequence of what Veblen describes as the “industrial exemption” of the upper classes.
Veblen views culture – and in particular, the prevailing set of economic institutions – as an adaptive system. This means that it changes over time in response to environmental pressures. Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/veblen.pdf

Veblen:The opposition of the [upper] class to changes in the cultural scheme is instinctive, and does not rest primarily on an interested calculation of material advantages; it is an instinctive revulsion at any departure from the accepted way of doing and of looking at things – a revulsion common to all men and only to be overcome by stress of circumstances. All change in habits of life and of thought is irksome. The difference in this respect between the wealthy and the common run of mankind lies not so much in the motive which prompts to conservatism as in the degree of exposure to the economic forces that urge a change (1899, 199). Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/veblen.pdf

---Heath:The arriviste or the nouveau riche are often accused of vulgarity. Yet often the problem is not that they are doing anything wrong, it’s that they are doing it all too consciously. This leaves more entrenched members of the class feeling exposed, because it reveals the artifice underlying what they prefer to regard as a purely natural form of behavior. (What Bourdieu calls “the ideology of natural taste” has correlates within all of these hierarchies: from “the ideology of good breeding” to “the ideology of natural cool.”) As a result, the conventions associated with any given status hierarchy often cannot survive explicit articulation, simply because this exposes the artificiality of the practice. Thus the most immediate impact of Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class arose from the way that he, somewhat relentlessly, exposed these subterranean features of the status system to the harsh light of day. Read More:http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~jheath/veblen.pdf image:http://www.tantusgalerie.de/en/photography/golfer?start=18



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