Over the last few days I’ve been recovering from a rather nasty flu acquired while on a cruise. Inspired by the anachronistic luxury I experienced aboard the Crown Princess, I caught up to the end of season 5 of Downton Abbey and watched a couple of documentaries on the the era. My husband introduced me to “Jeeves and Wooster” last evening as well. While in high school, my family moved from Massachusetts to New Jersey and I found that my AP U.S. history class had skipped ahead 50 years so I missed a significant chunk of history between the end of the Civil War and the Depression. The Belle Epoque. My favorite period in both fashion and art, I am forever intrigued about that era. As I learn more about the excesses of that time, I realize how the upper classes effectively spelled out their own doom through a combination of social rigidity and, as F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, silliness. I take away from this an understanding of a previously unspoken fear: today’s upper class is virtually invisible. We don’t hear about their antics and we don’t readily know most of their names. They are not nobility. They are shadow figures living at the top of the world and they are beholden to neither gods nor kings nor the people of their own lands. No moral code guides them and no public can see them to judge them into moral behavior. In effect, it’s actually worse now. We are ruled over by sociopaths and hoarders, liches living in glass towers. And though we claim that we are free people, we can never leave.
I’m inspired to begin work on a piece which speaks to our current Vilain Epoque and its necrotic rulers.