Tuesday, 15 September 2015


“But the eyes are blind: One must look with the heart…” The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

In the language of flowers, a red tulip, Tulipa gesneriana, symbolises ardent love.  The tulip is an importation into the West from Turkey and Persia, the word tulip being derived from the Turkish word tulband, meaning “turban”.  Young men in Persia would present their love with red tulips, this signifying their heated countenance (red petals) and their heart burnt to a coal (the black base of the petals).  The tulip also stands for eloquence, oratory and fame.

Tulipomania also called Tulip Craze, (Dutch: Tulpenwoede), was a speculative frenzy in 17th-century Holland over the sale of tulip bulbs. The tulip was first introduced into Europe from Turkey shortly after 1550. The delicate, vividly-coloured flowers became a popular but very costly item. The demand for differently coloured varieties of tulips soon exceeded the supply, and prices for individual bulbs of rare types began to rise to unwarranted heights in northern Europe. By about 1610 a single bulb of a new variety was acceptable as dowry for a bride, and a flourishing brewery in France was exchanged for one bulb of the variety “Tulipe Brasserie”.

The craze reached its height in Holland during 1633–37. Before 1633 Holland’s tulip trade had been restricted to professional growers and experts, but the steadily rising prices tempted many ordinary middle-class and poor families to speculate in the tulip market. Homes, estates, and industries were mortgaged so that bulbs could be bought for resale at higher prices. Sales and resales were made many times over without the bulbs ever leaving the ground, and rare varieties of bulbs sold for the equivalent of hundreds of dollars each. The crash came early in 1637, when doubts arose as to whether prices would continue to increase. Almost overnight the price structure for tulips collapsed, sweeping away fortunes and leaving behind financial ruin for many ordinary Dutch families.

Does this sound familiar? Do you invest in stocks and shares? Does it remind you of what happened when the stock market crashed in 1929? The Great Depression? The market collapse of the late 1980s? How frail we humans are. Ready to succumb to our basest desires. Avarice and laziness are ever present in our psyche. We want something for nothing. Easy life and riches obtained without hard work. Why work hard when you can invest your capital (even better if you can borrow it!) so that it magically multiplies. Be it tulips of shares, who cares? As long as we can make a fortune. The billions of dollars spent on lottery tickets is another instance of this attitude…

This attitude of getting “something for nothing” is unfortunately becoming increasingly more common around the world. It is not a feature of Western nations only (the “cargo cult” of New Guinea springs to mind) but it is certainly widespread in countries like ours. The consumer society that we live in contributes to it to a certain extent and the advertising messages that we are inundated with are difficult to resist. Increasing desires for consumer goods and aspirations to a lifestyle suited to the “rich and famous” bring with them desire for ready cash. We have gone beyond what we need to have a “comfortable” life and now desire and greedily want a “luxurious” one.

I grow tulips in our garden and the only profit I get out of it is the beauty of the blooms, a more than ample reward of the hard work I invest in growing my plants. I am not a stock market investor, nor do I actively buy and sell shares. My salary was always earnt through my own labours – I need no parasitic riches. I have forgotten the last time I bought a lottery ticket (well, yes, I admit it I occasionally buy one, I am human too), but should I win, my family and friends would be the ones that would most profit, my winnings spread liberally to those around me.

1 comment:

  1. This is a topic I am always interested in. But I am delighted to added more information eg Young men in Persia would present their love with "heated" red tulips. And by c1610 a single bulb of a new variety was acceptable as dowry for a bride, and a flourishing brewery in France was exchanged for one bulb of the variety Tulipe Brasserie. Great stuff!

    Thanks for the links