The weekend edition of the “Financial Times” cost €3.30 at the campsite shop. The usual Saturday features appear in the international version, including Tyler Brulé’s column “The Fast Lane”. The weekly celebration of extravagant and self-indulgent living this week focuses upon searching for the perfect hotel in Manhattan. Brulé’s ten criteria for the perfect hotel include the gym being on the roof instead of the basement and there being a coffee barista in the lobby. There must be a significant number of people for whom such matters are important, or the column would not appear.
Given the “Financial Times”‘ editorial strapline “Without fear and without favour”, perhaps they would consider a column that balanced the perspective of excessive wealth, it might include items such as “The search for a good house in a poor African village.” Tyler Brulé would not need to worry about gyms, bars or baristas, they would be no more than things in television pictures from far off lands. The ten criteria might include:
(i) Concrete walls and floors so as to be able to try to stay dry in the wet season.
(ii) Glass in the windows, or at least mosquito screens, to try to reduce the constant threat of malaria.
(iii) A kitchen that was not dependent upon charcoal or firewood for cooking, making the house cleaner and healthier and helping avoid deforestation.
(iv) A mains water tap, so that water does not have to be fetched by the women and children from hundreds of metres, if not kilometres away
(v) A latrine in the garden, so as not to have to share with the neighbourhood
(vi) A tarmac road through the village, so that catching a bus or motor cycle taxi would be easier, and that markets for selling and buying would be easily reached
(vii) A school within a couple of kilometres, so that the children do not spend a third of their waking hours walking
(viii) Electricity to the village, if not to the house, so that there might be facilities in the community.
(ix) A village clinic that would provide education in hygiene and disease prevention, as well as providing primary health care and maternity facilities
(x) A garden in which to grow vegetables and fruit for good nutrition, and even some space for flowers because, when you are poor, things of beauty become even more important.
There would hardly be a readership for such a column, FT readers are many more times more likely to be in Manhattan than Matana. “Without fear and without favour” makes a fine editorial declaration, but a newspaper that did not favour the rich and the powerful would find itself quickly fearing a complete loss of advertising revenue. Reflections on a desire for roof to gyms and lobby baristas are more than just indulgence, they are reflections on the way the world is.