Talking to Fernando Villena – a Basque artist who lives a jetset lifestyle in New York and Puerto Rico – about quality of life, particularly with reference to the kind of relaxed and contented existence enjoyed in Spain, which I have been extolling recently. To him, such a life is bovine and just because a cow is happy doesnt mean that you would want to be one.
These comments momentarily threw me. Long repressed romanticist attitudes about the stupidity of the masses floated into my mind. I recalled my teenage self asking the question – if you were an animal, what animal would you be? – and disdaining any reply that lacked danger and excitement. Villena was right, cows are stupid: chewing at grass all day, never leaving their field unless prodded to do so, lollopping around without grace. What a pathetic existence!
But then I asked myself what the alternatives were. Would he, I wondered, rather be a lion or a tiger, spending 18 hours a day sleeping before going out for a kill and a fuck. Quite vulgar, no? Or what about an eagle, swooping hither and thither in solitude? It would soon get dull. Perhaps hed be a swan or a peacock, elegant, aesthetical and faithful? Or would he prefer to be a bonobo chimpanzee, a peaceful animal whose disputes are resolved with an endless orgy of guilt-free sex. It soon becomes clear that in most every animal, contentment reigns supreme. Only the human animal values dissatisfaction and unnecessary danger. We are like dogs (tightrope) walking on their hinder legs: unsteady yet amusing.
To differentiate yourself from the supposedly bovine masses is to display your feathers, showing them to be more colourful than the others. And this, in the same way that the peacock sacrifices its survival ability for sexual selection, is why humans sacrifice quality of life.
One thing that does ruffle my feathers is the Spanish habit of eating late. As a child, I would eat at 5.35pm, just in time for Neighbours. Last night, we went to an all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant at 10.30pm!