There was cocktails, and delicious food. There were people dressed up all lovely. There was live music – and an auction to support our orphans in Kathmandu. And the location was probably the most contrasting to the cause: the “home” of Absolut Vodka, in Stockholm.
We toured the “apartment” (which really was an apartment, save for the kitchen, because no rock stars and artists staying here ever have time to cook). There was a bedroom with a floor-covering bed, and a bathroom with televisions from a U2 concert. And a studio. Of course. The staff were fiercely proud of the place, to the extent that they had been insulted by our question if it was possible to serve beer at the bar (only Absolut cocktails were ever going to be served!).
And I could not help but think of the kids in Kathmandu who had probably never tasted Absolut vodka. To whom a brand, an image, of an alcoholic beverage is not worth a rupee. I thought about the absurd abstraction of building a luxury party home for a distilled rye beverage that melts your brain and crisps your liver. And how we worship images, whether they were religious or consumables that we most likely do not need.
I work in the pharmaceuticals and health technology industry; a branch that also has been heavily criticized. Sometimes with reason. But I know we save lives and make people’s lives better. I could not say the same if I worked for Absolut. And yet, because of my lovely friends and the people at Absolut Atelier, we were able to raise a significant sum of money for the kids in Kathmandu; enough for a few years to come.
Maybe Hamlet was right. “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
(Absolut Atelier, Stockholm, Sweden; March 2017)