When Tutankhamun popped his clogs there really ought to have been someone in his entourage who harboured doubts, deep down, about what they did next. It was all very well to mummify the kid, but I wonder whether anyone stopped to ask whether he was really going to need all that clobber.
I mean all the gubbins they left him for the afterlife: the cash, the bows, the baffling board games, the hunting dogs, the mouldering jars of ancient Egyptian tucker, the untwanged harps and the boats that never got wet. Was there some secret rationalist at the court of the pharaohs?
We may think the Vikings were crazy to inter their warriors surrounded by polished axe heads and saddles and sacrificed thrall girls and horses chopped up so as to fit in the tombs. But if you want evidence of how human beings still define themselves and their status by their possessions – regardless of whether they can actually use them – then drive out of any big British town or city.
There on the perimeter, vast and growing, you will see the cuboid buildings of the self-storage industry. These are monuments to democratic capitalism. They are a system that allows anyone – not just the kings and the pharaohs – to have his or her own pointless treasure house of immortal possessions. They are a testament to our deep reluctance to let go.
Like so many consumer phenomena, the self-storage industry began in the US, and in the past four decades its expansion has tracked the growth of GDP. With every upwards lurch in per capita spending power, with every technological obsolescence, human beings have been acquiring more and more stuff.
The full article appears in the Daily Telegraph here.