My daughter is amongst those legions of fans disappointed to have missed out on Katy Perry tickets. For those not keeping up with the play, Katy is a pop star with a strong Christian background (not that her current music or image particularly reflects that), and who has over the last few years become one of the world's biggest pop stars. She's coming to New Zealand later this year.
Tickets were on sale for just over $100 which is pretty standard for an international concert these days. I paid $90 to see New Order a couple of years ago, and while they were/are a band I've grown up with, there was no danger of a sold out concert as with all respect they are probably not a big drawcard these days. The crowd was mostly dad-blokes like me having a rare night out. Given what a treat going to a live concert was, I felt it was relatively good value for money. So to pay maybe $40-$50 more for one of the world's currently biggest pop stars didnt seem to me to beoverly pricey.
However tickets inevitably sold out in the blink of an eye for Miss Perry, and now on trade me they are scalping for $1000 for a front row ticket. I guess it's one of these "the market will decide the price" type situations. That's the position trademe have taken anyway. But I have to ask –
Who in their right mind pays $1000 to go to a pop concert?
The reason why I've chosen to post on this is that it made me think of a book I read recently – "The Progress Paradox – How Life Gets Better, While People Get Worse". It's a really interesting read, looking at the multitude of ways in which each of us (at least here in NZ) live far more pampered, indulged lives than at any other time in history, with relatively few immediate dangers or threats to our way of life by comparison to other eras. In almost every measure, we as a society have never had it so easy.
The paradox is that while we enjoy this standard of living, never before in our society has there been such widespread diagnosed depression, general pessimism, feelings of deprivation and/or isolation. This is partly due to our increasing demands for more and more comfort – a family forty years ago with a four bedroom house and two cars would have been deemed well off. Now that same family with the same material assets is probably deemed struggling. My own children can hardly believe that I never had a room to myself until I left home – I always shared with my brother growing up; they've had their own rooms since birth.
On the news tonight a teenager was in tears because they had missed out on tickets. The Mum was sitting looking stoicly at the camera, quoted as saying "I will get her tickets somehow". The next item on the news is about how unaffordable housing is in Auckland. I'm not judging that family, I don't know their full story, but it does give me pause to think – what is the Christian response to this consumer culture? Not specifically Katy Perry – it's not personal, Katy – but how do we as Christians guard against this in our own lives? How do we avoid falling into the Progress Paradox, where all of a sudden we can rationalise $1000 for a concert ticket, or believe we are entitled to such things?