The times of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and the somewhat frivolous times at The Existentialist Café – the times of being,enjoying freedom and striving for more of it and of philosophising over and about Apricot Cocktails are gone [may be they are here 😉] – and sometimes a paradoxical development requires now political correctness that would be countering the understanding that we[re] meant those years. So, even talking about beauty becomes quickly a somewhat tricky topic – easy to drop a brick, or even to cause a tower collapsing. Sure, a problem for many, and for me too.
Be it as it is, when talking to a friend in China, occasionally the term inner beauty came up. I suppose it mainly refers to harmony and ‘contentedness’, making beauty a matter of living ones own life – a bit of La Belle et la Bête perhaps? And as much as this is an individual matter, or a matter to be resolved between beauty and beast, it is also very much a social construct, depending in multiple ways on the space and time we live in. And part of it is the paradoxical attempt to compensate for the lack of inner, of one’s ‘natural’ beauty by a whole range of artificial means – Clothes Make the Man [Gottfried Keller] and in some way we may add: makeup make the woman [ah yes, I know …, as said …]. It is at least interesting to see that – according to Angus Trumble [2004: A Brief History of the Smile; NY: Basic Books: page 57]
[t]oward the beginning of the current recession, in 2001, American women spent more then $836 million on lipstick, 6% more than the year before. According to Leonard Lauder, chairman of Esteée Lauder, ‘When things get tough, women buy lipstick.’ Perhaps.
Probably this is a matter of striving for some artificial beauty, underlining natural expressions, compensating for ‘unnaturally’ enforced lack of beauty: socio-economic crisis causing too many worry lines and wrinkles – some redistribution from the bottom to the top being implied: at least trying to makeup the way to higher echelons ….
More interesting, I find, is the other case, namely the in fact explicit redistribution from rich artificiality, aiming on making natural beauty possible –
first comes a full stomach, then ethics [Brecht],
first comes a full stomach, then inner beauty can unfold again
[Herrmann, nothing wrong with occasionally forgetting modesty I supose]
So, how to make sure that people can live up to their inner beauty? – again from the book mentioned, here page 61,
by the eighteenth century the French consumed approximately two million pots of rouge each year, of wich a certain proportion was applied to lips as well as cheeks. The reason we can be sure of the figure is that an attempt was made to impose a tax on each pot at a rate of 25 sols, in this case to finance pensions for the widow of poor army officers. Comparable amounts of rose and patchouli scent are consumed by women of rank.
[I did the highlighting; and in this case I do not give out, reading that the money was used to support widows of army officers – the normal thing: social support first for military servants, then state officials and finally, if at all, for ‘ordinary people’ – looking at cutbacks, we find the reverse order … – and there I give out.
Yes, economy and economics is lurking around every corner, and sometimes it is easier to forget all about it, simply enjoying the inner beauties that are around…