The Lady Blunt Stradivarius violin is an exceptional instrument. Made in 1721 for Lady Anne Blunt, it is one of the best preserved Stradivarius violins in existence, and the crown jewel in the collection of musical instruments of the Nippon Music Foundation in Japan. Every time in the 20th century it has been up for sale, it has set a new record. Most recently, it was sold for over $10 million.
I was rather moved therefore to hear the other day that this instrument is being sold by the Foundation. Ms. Kazuko Shiomi, President of the Nippon Music Foundation was quoted as saying: “Each of the instruments in our collection is very dear to us. However, the extent of the devastation facing Japan is very serious and we feel that everyone and every organization should make some sacrifice for those affected by this tragedy.”
That is some sacrifice. I think too it shows a rather Japanese response to the tragedies which have recently struck their country. I read once that when the massive financial crisis hit Japan a decade or so ago, the whole country embraced austerity mode in a rather special way. Although part of global consumer culture, the Japanese, I read, made decisions about which aspect of materialistic consumerism they wished to hold on to, and simply gave up the rest. So a woman might stick with Louboutin shoes, but give up the Hermes scarves, etc.
I was impressed by this. I have no idea to what extent it is true, but it is food for thought. An entire society, including the well-off, making hard decisions about sacrifice. It’s easy to scoff about luxury problems, but I can’t quite see those same attitudes prevailing here.
There was an interesting article at the weekend by Jeremy Clarkson in The Sunday Times on the topic of the consumer-driven excesses of today, and how it may have hindered the sort of grand philanthropic gestures made by the Victorian well-to-do. Simply put, the very wealthy would rather spend all their money these days on pointless and unnecessary luxuries rather than give it away to a deserving cause. Sitting surrounded by my Apple toys, albeit in my tatty clothes, I can’t deny my own complicity in the lure of materialism, and I do wonder sometimes how far I am prepared to go in terms of material sacrifice.
Would I sell my “Stradivarius”, my dearest possession (whatever the nearest thing to that might be) and give the proceeds to charity?