Tag Archives: capitalism

Screen 15

Westfield Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush, on Black Friday. Whoops.

It didn’t occur to me when I booked my ticket. I had to be out west later to see a band, I had time to see a film first, there’s a cinema in this hideous place: fine, I’ll tolerate it. Little did I realise I’d encounter a battalion of rabid consumers surging towards me in waves with their unlimited boxes of trainers, always bloody trainers.

Still, not even people soon to realise that bargain Converse won’t fill the hole in their soul can ruin one of my favourite experiences – going to the pictures. That honour instead falls to the Vue cinema chain.

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The next boat back to Tuvalu

FIFA has certainly had a rough patch of late. Dodgy deals behind closed doors, confederation presidents handling suspiciously overstuffed briefcases, botched bribery attempts from the chronically awkward Brits (bless them), more expensive Swiss watches than even Salvador Dalí would know what to do with and a couple of incredibly misguided venue choices for the next two footballing extravaganzas. Could it get any worse?

Amazingly, yes.

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The Russell Hobbs stampede

Well, we’ve made it. We deployed the stiff upper lip, the fearless spirit that has seen Britain endure three plague epidemics, two world wars and a Margaret Thatcher, and we’ve survived Black Friday for another year.

About three years ago, the biggest shopping day in the United States migrated to her little cousin across the pond. The lack of a Thanksgiving Thursday over here would no longer stop us elbowing our fellow Britons in the jaw in a bid to secure the best deals on massive TVs on Black Friday. Videos of snarling housewives showed the lengths we’d go to for a good deal, dependable consumers that we are.

This year was no different. There were 14 arrests after a mass brawl at Tesco Extra in Watford, and six staff were treated for smoke inhalation as furious shoppers reacted to the Solihull John Lewis selling out of Dell Inspirons by setting fire to the Customer Service counter. A man died in the Russell Hobbs stampede at Lakeside.

Only none of that actually happened.

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The router incident

The internet is in so many ways a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t seem quite so bloody marvellous, liberating, enlightening or whatever else it’s supposed to be when you can’t fucking use it.

How exactly am I supposed to survive the day when I can’t explore the latest top tips on how to pluck my eyebrows? Life just isn’t the same without being able to consult those useful guides to picking your nose whilst driving.

Hardly the world’s most original thought this, but BT are bunch of unscrupulous, money grabbing, deceitful and wholly unpleasant fuckers. It’s just a pity that I didn’t realise this until I signed up for their broadband service.

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Imploring clocks

A few weeks ago I was asked if I knew of a decent podcast app my friend could pipe idiots talking bollocks about nothing into her ears through. Pausing for a couple of deep breaths, I turned to the computer and pressed roughly 19 buttons to establish that the best such app out there was something called Pocket Casts. Tens of thousands of users, rave reviews, and not a bug in sight.

She thanked me for my skill at using the internet, all too rare in these days of increasing dependency on the Encyclopaedia Britannica. But there was a problem.

“It’s £1.49! Fuck that!”

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Playground training

Every year I vow I won’t put myself through it again, every single year. But without fail I still watch it. It’s event TV for the unimaginative, it’s infuriating and it makes me shout angrily at the screen as idiots in expensive suits make fools of themselves.

The Apprentice, Alan Sugar, and naked capitalism – a trilogy of things I hate, but still put up with annually. The producers are particularly savvy in their selection of candidates, as are the editors who tweak the narrative for maximum impact. It’s a parade of stupidity, and it makes me genuinely angry.

My girlfriend hates The Apprentice too, but she loves my apoplectic expressions, my consistent assumption that if I were on the show I could do better. The advertising slogans they coin, even the names they give their shitty and short-lived ‘teams’, lack even a simplistic sense of creativity.

Like a sycophant, I assume that if I made it onto the show I could win Alan Sugar’s favour, and his measly investment in whatever half-assed idea I sold him. The Apprentice sells the narrative that we all need a benevolent and wise mentor to guide us through life and it both appalls and entices me.

Watching this show makes me realise that my character isn’t as strong as I thought it was. I know that I should just ignore it, and let myself breathe more easily. The competitiveness, the backstabbing, and the anger that the candidates display is absurd, and frequently childish. The whole process makes these apparent professionals regress to their playground training, pulling hair and refusing to share the toys.

For me, there are some principles in life that we should defend rather than attack. There are some higher ideals that we should strive towards, instead of letting shitty human nature take over. We should aim to collaborate, and work together with others. And we should know that what we do collectively is always going to be better than what we do by ourselves.

But The Apprentice doesn’t aim for anything higher than naked profit. It champions those who squash, lash out, and venomously attack others. And it sucks us in with its logic.

Years and years ago, in the mystical dark ages of the 1960s, a sage called Richard Alpert discussed the legacy of LSD on the free market system. He claimed that if we all killed our egos, and if we all became mindful of the fact that we’re one consciousness experiencing reality subjectively, the world would become a healthier, happier, and more peaceful place.

It seems that if Alan Sugar, along with his business advisers and his yearly cohort of hopeful candidates, understood that life had more meaning than the arbitrary financial boundaries they believe in, The Apprentice could have a better legacy. It could be a TV show that highlights the positive aspects of humanity, rather than its ugliness.

Perhaps we should dose them all with LSD, we could watch consciousness expand, and we could realise together that there is no they or other, there’s just us, the collective. We could share in the candidates’ joy as they overcame the need to compete, and we could revel in the understanding that to be good to others is to be good to yourself.

There’s magic and beauty in the world, and sometimes we need a healthy dose of mindfulness, and we need to step outside of what we know and the ideas of self that define us to find it. But The Apprentice doesn’t allow for that kind of thinking. It’s an experience that makes everyone poorer. The candidates hurt each other, Alan Sugar watches on like the worst kind of prophet, and everyone celebrates wealth, opulence and greed.

If we don’t partake, if we don’t join in, and if we do it deliberately and vocally, then bad things stop. We don’t need to feed the beast; I could just turn the TV off. My girlfriend would lose out on some entertainment, but my mind would be better for it. The noise, the squabbling, squawking shrieks of anger and irritation, would be silenced. 

But what would I do instead on a Wednesday night? I could read a book, maybe explore my understanding of my own place in the universe. I could come to realise that by analysing the candidates on Alan Sugar’s shit show I become just like them. I could take a breath and realise that by judging others I’m judging myself; that our collective consciousness is harmed by the divisive them and us philosophy espoused by wealthy establishment figures like ‘Lord’ Sugar.

But I don’t have time for all that. The fuckers are naming a shampoo brand and they’re shit at it.

But it’s cheap

There’s pleasure to be had in the very act of argument, provided it’s about something meaningful and not “I can’t believe you didn’t reply to my text, it’s like you don’t even love me”. Sometimes you can lay out the most coherent arguments in a debate, trumping every opposing idea with the calm dexterity of Lincoln or Aristotle, knowing no sane person could resist your electrifying reasoning and that they will undoubtedly embrace your philosophy with immediate effect. You lean back contentedly, basking in triumph.

And your opponent slowly lifts their gaze from their smartphone and says: “Hmmmm? Oh, sorry. Just sorting myself out an Uber.”

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Mutualisation

I wander in out of the rain, shaking my barnet about like an outwitted sheepdog. The doors have handles but a sign tells me they’re automatic; motorisation added as afterthought, which will need to happen to me if the noises my legs make when I dare crouch are anything to go by.

I’m met immediately by a man who demands to know what I want. I can’t tell if he’s a doorman solidly and professionally making sure I’m sent in the right direction, a bouncer grimly explaining I almost certainly have the wrong shoes to get into the fightiest club in town, or one of those wretches whose souls died long ago directing you to the self-service supermarket checkout. As it turns out, he’s all three. I can be nowhere but the Post Office.

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We’re not interested in quality

I’m no media guru, but I think anyone with any semblance of sense would find it near-impossible not to agree that “We’re not interested in quality” is a fucking terrible line to start an advert with. Yet in another instance of someone okaying another farcical entry into the commercial world, like those “Ride me all day for £3” South Wales bus adverts held up by naked men and woman, we now know that Papa John’s couldn’t care less about the quality of their pizzas. Way to make a first impression, Papa.

It’s like if Pizza Hut started an advert saying: “Here at Pizza Hut, we don’t care about pizza.” Oh wait, they’re kind of already doing that by slowly changing their name to Pasta Hut. Conveying a healthy image is all fine and well, but nobody goes to Pizza Hut, or any pizza joint, to be healthy. You go because Nando’s was full a bunch of dickheads trying to have a ‘cheeky’ meal (whatever the hell that actually means), and you fancy something easy and greasy to eat, at a reasonable price. Maybe if they’re offering you free access to the salad bar you might pick up a slice of cucumber or two, or maybe not since you want to save room to gorge on the unlimited ice cream dispenser (hoping you can pull off not looking like a child catcher while in the queue for it). As consumers all we care about is the pizza. We want pizzas from pizza places. Some things are inherently simple, and this is one such thing.

And yet pizza advertising has something clearly wrong with it. The aforementioned Papa John’s line is a testament to how they’ve misjudged the majority of their audience. People need a fast hook, and if you start off by saying “We’re not interested in quality” – even if you follow it up with the ever-so-clever caveat of “we’re obsessed by it” – then people will move on quickly. Or, at the very least, that is the one line that will stick with people afterwards.

And while we all like food that actually tastes pretty good, who actually goes to a pizza chain expecting something supremely delicious? If you want proper pizza you go to a middle-class Italian restaurant (or maybe Pizza Express, which, though a tad pricey, is an exception to the rule of pizza restaurant quality). Otherwise you should be aware that you’re getting pre-prepared dough squeezed between the sticky hands of a university student trying to earn their way out of absolute debt. Competent as that student may be, you can only get a certain level of ‘delicious’ when you’re titting about with something a machine made earlier.

We eat it anyway though, because pizza is really tasty and easy to eat. Still, why they think they can sell a pizza for just short of of £20 remains a mystery. When you try to sell something people want a basic pleasure from, keep it simple, and keep it cheap – which is why a £5 pizza from a kebab shop never goes down poorly. It’s not pretending to be anything more than it is, and sometimes it can actually be pretty damn good.

Because kebab shop pizza makers aren’t too interested in quality or ‘delicious’, and instead are putting all their energy into getting you and your drunken stupor out of their face as quickly as possible. Sometimes all the advertising you need is a lit-up menu board with a crude and gratuitously glistening picture of unhealthy food, and the price. Media gurus, you might want to take note.

The last Granny Smith

Thrilled. That’s the word she used. I’m not a fan of workplace violence but if we in this building were trusted to open the windows she’d currently be worrying the front wheels of a number 17 to Cannon Street.

The woman who sits next to me in my mercifully temporary ‘job’ wastes most of the breaths she has left on words and phrases such as ‘personas’ and ‘overarching user needs’. It’s some kind of research the government allows her to do in preparation for online projects which can not and will not be influenced in any way by that research, due to civil servants whose lives depend on sticking fast to impenetrable policy guidelines. Anyway, the government is all about job creation as they’ve been saying for months, and she has one. And she’s thrilled about it.

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