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Alain de Botton was born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1969 and now lives in London. He is a writer of essayistic books that have been described as a 'philosophy of[…]

Writer Alain De Botton says that status anxiety is more pernicious and destructive than most of us can imagine, and recommends getting out of the game altogether.

AlaindeBotton: Status anxiety is one of the most pernicious, wide-spread of all diseases. It can ruin large sections of our lives and a good approach to life means having a philosophy that we can deal with it and recognize the problem for what it is.

Look, as soon as you’ve finished college, what starts to matter is what you do in life.  The first question becomes, what do you do?  And according to how you answer that question, people are either incredibly pleased to see you or make a run for it.  In other words, how clever and nice and friendly and, you know, sympathetic you are ceases to matter in most social occasions.  We live in a world surrounded by snobs.  What is a snob?--A snob is someone who takes a small part of you and uses that to judge the whole of you.  And the dominant snobbery nowadays is job snobbery. 

This is a deeply frightening vision.  Partly it’s frightening because most of us are unable to bring our true richness of character and personality in line with our business card.  The business card does not fully reflect who we are. We are being judged, we feel, in a humiliating way.  We feel there is so much in us that has not got an expression in capitalism.  You know, capitalism is a machine that recognizes outward financial, external achievement.  And most of us carry all kinds of richness which we are unable to translate into that language.  There are very few of us whose full complexity of character has been brought out, as it were, on their business card.  Most of us, what is special about us requires – it requires love.  And by love, I mean imagination.  It requires someone to say, even though that person looks a bit, it could be anything boring, uninteresting, unimportant, dull, actually that’s because I’m only looking at them in the first 30 seconds.  They need more time.  

So we need charity and we need complexity.  And the cruelty of the modern world, the cruelty of New York City, for example, so this is a city where people give you 30 seconds and not much longer, if you’re not careful.  And that’s very challenging, it cuts people up inside.  It literally drives you crazy. 

Directed / Produced by

Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd