Poor judgement led me to be swept away into the stream of bug-eyed, gut-swinging, make-up plastered humans that inhabit the West Quays shopping centre of Southampton. It was by far and away the most harrowing experience of the month so far – and I live in London. London’s a carnival of inhumanity orchestrated by a confederacy of subterranean dunces, and yet still the unending misery of life here doesn’t quite match up to the deranged experience in Southampton’s premier cattle market.
It was like waking up in a zoo, hemmed in by some unique specimens with no clear exit route. I found my trigger finger itching for the blunderbuss – I was on safari in the land of the dead. If this is mankind’s endgame then perhaps we’re due a meteor of extinction proportions. Something large, violent and destructive is the only feasible way to cut through the smog of apathy, gluttony, blind hatred, glum joy and the general victory of all that is smug, artificial and mindless in this consumerist society.
Shopping centres are for people who have nothing to do. Spending your weekend in these air-conditioned hells is essentially declaring to the world that you have no interests, no passion – just a lifetime to waste fawning over shit you simply don’t need. Like people whose favourite crisps are ready salted or like a bit of everything when it comes to music, these ones will be the first to be harvested for organs when the sun implodes.
Watching people clamber over one another in the name of Black Friday is a bit like turning a stone over to see a heap of maggots feasting on one another in the absence of sustenance. How quick we are to debase ourselves for a TV that we can download porn onto. Watching it on the news, I couldn’t tell if it was the beginning of a SyFy disaster movie or just another collective lowering of the bar – pretty soon we’ll dispense with the pleasantries and just get back into hacking one another to death in the pursuit of property.
Conjure up an image of shopping centres and you’re probably seeing fat middle aged goons jostling one another to be first in line to buy household appliances that can tie your shoelaces and teach you Mandarin all at once. Still, it’s probably good training for when they’re wading through charred skeletal remains in search of the last uncontaminated hunk of bread following the inevitable collapse of our consumption-orientated society. It’s just more meaningless shit to put in that tomb you paid a mortgage for so you can sit and stare in horror at something other than one another as you both desperately try to find something to talk about that isn’t the crushing hell of it all.
To what kind of dribbling ape is a shopping centre supposed to have meaning? Given the amount of hours of life lost to these time-vampires we may as well put the bastards on the board of culture and tourism. Perhaps at some point we actually started believing the guff that advertising farted into our minds; maybe we really thought we could get all we’d ever dreamed off at 0% APR with free home delivery and that the terms and conditions might not cost us our collective souls.
It’s all part of this aspirational living that has us all bobbing up and down on steel conveyor-belts like well-groomed cattle to the slaughter. West Quays is an abattoir run by Philip Green that’s free to the credit card-toting public. If the threat of the nuclear bomb rendered death a senseless, causeless event that could sweep us away in a moment, then shopping centres, malls and the like have left life just as meaningless. Judged on the merits of these places, humanity just seems like an awful parade of pampered, farting meat-slabs that are all too impressed with the latest shiny toy that smells like a used car air-freshener.
These emporiums of commercial dreams aim to regurgitate the ambitions of others down our throats, as though happiness is just a new television away. Replete with all the glossy posters of unfeasibly attractive people flogging perfume made from cow semen, indicating that you too can be as happy and as beautiful if only you smelled like a bovine ball-sack. It’s probably got some pheromone-fuelled potential to arouse in others the same level of sexual desire as you’re supposed to feel for the swaggering, pouting chumps that adorn the windows of these shops.
So we walk around shocked and baffled into submission under the barrage of images and claims that your life can only be improved through buying more and working harder to buy some more. Whether it’s the sculpted Hollister models sauntering around topless outside the store like grinning wads of flesh, or nude celebrity endorsements for jewellery, water or whatever else needs to be sold – the whole place helps to reinforce the notion that you have failed in some way, that success is attainable, but only with the guiding hand of money.
It’s as if we should be grateful for the existence of shopping centres; where else could we find so much progress in one place? Everything you’ve ever wanted is there – health, beauty, youth, comfort and happiness – it’s all yours for the taking, provided you can pay for it. Perhaps this explains the gormless look of hopeless despair that’s splattered all over the faces of these wretched souls as they trot up and down the farm of dreams and realise that they can’t afford it all, that they can never attain true nirvana in this church because it all costs too much. In six months’ time it’ll all be out of fashion, out of warranty and the uselessness of it is revealed; so onwards they march, hopeless in the knowledge that they can’t afford to hold onto their happiness and so they go to the food court and wash all that shame down with a Big Mac and watery cola to try and escape all this defeat.
Why do we do it? We run ourselves through the gauntlet of comparable living when we know full well that we can’t afford it, and we don’t really need it. You can’t lose a game you refuse to play, but still the rules ensnare so many people who drag their tired, bloated carcasses around in the hope that maybe there’ll be a sale that allows them just another taste of ‘success’. Come friendly bombs and free us from the scourge of the great British tradition of worshipping weekly in the church of the damned, the fraudulent and the smug.