One of humanity’s recurring fears is of shortage, a dearth of life-sustaining resources. There clearly is not enough oil or water. We don’t even know how many species there are, but we do know that the number is shrinking dramatically. There’s not enough money to pay for repairing bridges, moon shots, giving everyone a free iPad and repaying the US national debt. But the stage is being set for tragedy with the silent consumption of a vital resource: colours.
The supply of colours is limited, particularly those that are pronounceable and recognizable. With a global population due to hit nine billion in the year 2050, there are only six real colours: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. Chuck in white and black, and you have eight. Still not enough to share among 18 billion eyes.
Any artistically minded person would tell us these colours need to be used sparingly, but right now they are being sloshed around with gay abandon. And I am not talking about Jackson Pollack’s masterpiece, “Blue Poles”.
The most profligate consumer of colour is the ideology industry. Even the most insignificant cause has staked a claim on a colour. The bigger players have hijacked the whole spectrum. ROYGABIV has become an index of ideology and a byword for bigotry.
Take two pertinent examples.
Pink the colour, like Pink the person, has become somehow associated with a range of feminist and pseudo-feminist causes. In fact, feminists have drenched their cause in pink in much the same way that Australians will cover a good deal of what they eat in tomato sauce.
But non-gender-neutral pink is an uneasy ambassador for feminism. Its liberal distribution gives a flavour of blandness to the most diverse of feminist positions. And that is before it lends itself to capitalists.
Pink sells everything from iPads to bottled water. Even rugby league footballers get around in pink to show their solidarity with the female cause. Pink has become larger than feminism itself, and its gentle hues may be obfuscating the issue.
And consider Green, which is everywhere being hailed as the new Black. In a hypnogogic moment last week I thought I saw an Roman Catholic priest on a catwalk in clerical garb. In actual fact he was a model, his soutane was green, and on his back were written the words “high priest of mother nature”.
Green has greatly aided the environmental cause, and with good reason. It is considered to be the most restful colour for human eye because of its position in the middle of the spectrum. But we are at risk of being over-greened. I, for one, object to living in a perpetual St Patrick’s Day parade.
We are at risk of making green the measure of all things. Even Gordon Gekko now says that Green is Good. I once heard a rugby team song that goes, to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, “We’re Red, because we’re Red because, we’re Red…” and so on. As a summary of the beliefs, aspirations and ideals of a rugby team, it is nearly perfect. But it is somewhat disconcerting for politicians and opinion makers to sing their credo to the same tune: “I’m Green, because I’m Green, because I’m Green…”
And, again thanks to commerce, Green the colour has outstripped Green the cause. Now even coal mining companies can look environmentally aware if they correspond on Green letterhead.
If anyone is in any doubt as to the state of the crisis, consider the dilemma of the homosexual cause. It patented all the colours of the rainbow and then South Africa invoked national sovereignty and stole it. What’s left? Red is owned by the Communists, Black by the Fascists, Yellow by Americans supporting their troops, Orange by the Ukrainians, Blue by the war on depression, Violet by … well, it’s a ghastly colour anyway. The only one to claim it is Germany’s Violet Party, a small New Age party in Germany which preaches democracy and spiritual values.
The job of correlating political ideologies with colour has become nearly impossible. It’s like the cacophony on a crowded FM spectrum. What does Bolshy Red have to do with the Red states of the deep South? Does Democrat Blue draw its support from Blue-collar or Blue-ribbon constituents?
What colours will we leave as a legacy to future ideologies? Our spendthrift ways are a clear violation of the principles of intergenerational equity. Will our children have to resort to such obscurities as atomic tangerine, lavender mist, plum crazy, periwinkle or jazzberry jam to express themselves? Or, like cigarettes, will our children’s ideals be forced to garb themselves in plain packaging?
Phil Elias is a Sydney doctor.
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