The Great And The Really Great by Richard King

Story type: Essay

I always think that one of the most amusing things (to watch), in all life, is what I term the “Kaiser-spirit” in individuals. Nearly everyone mistakes the trimmings of greatness for the real article, and most people would sooner expire than not be able to flaunt these wrappings, or the rags or them, before somebody’s eyes. And this spirit exists in individuals in almost every grade of society; until you get to the rock bottom of existence, when the immediate problems of life are so menacing that men and women dare not play about with the gilded imitations. This “Kaiser-spirit”–or the spirit which, if it can’t inspire homage, will buy the “props” of it and sit among the hired gorgeousness in the full belief that their own individual greatness has deserved it–is everywhere. Very few men and women are content to be simply men and women. They all seek strenuously to be mistaken for Great Panjandrums. The woman who takes a little air in the park in the afternoon with two full-grown men sitting up, straight-backed and impassive, on the box of the carriage, is one example of this. The chatelaine of a jerry-built villa, who is pleased to consort with anybody except servants and the class below servants, is another. The majority of people need money, not in order to live and be happy, but in order to impress the crowd that they are of more value than those who are thereby impressed. The drama which goes on around and around the problem of whom to “call upon” and whom to “cut,” fills the lives of more men and women than the problem of how to make the best of life and pave one’s way to the hereafter. If Christ came back to earth, He would have to choose one set or another–Belgravia, Bayswater, or Brixton.

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