The overriding feature of the 21st century is SOUND — and, in this context, SILENCE IS A LUXURY GOOD. That’s what Chloe Schama, writing at The New Republic, says. The problem of noise isn’t new. As far back as 6 BC, the Greek city of Sybaris OUTLAWED ROOSTERS, so that their hard-partying citizens could sleep late. In he 1st century AD, the Roman satirist, Juvenal, complained long and loudly about the noise in ancient Rome. Later, in the Middle Ages, Elizabethan weren’t allowed to beat their wives past 10p.m. But now, with technology working as enabler, SILENCE CAN BE, AND IS, BOUGHT.
“From noise-cancelling head-phones to the popularity of silent retreats, there has never been quite so great a PREMIUM PLACED ON SILENCE. Silence has become the ultimate luxury,” writes Schama. She backs her argument up with a series of examples: the growing popularity of Amtrak’s silent car; the fact that half of airline passengers are willing to pay a premium for silent flights and silent zones in airports; and the popularity of cars with silent engines. One part of it could be the desire to lose the ‘noisy baggage’ of one’s life. Another part of it is the burgeoning of ‘back to basics’ impulse that has driven up demand for ‘organically grown food’.
There’s also another factor. “The modern day SELLING OF SILENCE, though, seems to have less to do with either global health or the annoyance of a neighbour’s barking dog and more to do with a desire to push back against the GNAT-LIKE TICKING OF TECHNOLOGY than anything else. Mindfulness mania has underlined that urge, and retreats and head-phones and apps and niche guidebooks have responded. It might be just a matter of time before all this SELLING OF SILENCE comes to seem like a noisome annoyance of its own,’ she writes.