Tomorrow, I’m DJing at the night-time part of Derby Feste. Ostensibly, the event is to celebrate the opening of Derby’s new Westfield shopping centre. But this is a rather, ummm, playful mission statement. It’s far more about trying to divert some of the extra people flooding into Derby to other events. Events that are not shopping-related.
It’s been an interesting week. The Westfield has polarised most people I know. The two camps tend to be: I love it! SHOES! versus BAH! It’s industrial capitalism, life is not just shopping!
I’m in neither camp. I love the new shopping centre but not because I can shop there. There’s only one computer shop and I’m too fat to fit into any of the clothing.
I love it precisely because life under capitalism is just shopping. Or, as a much better thinker than me put it:
The simulacrum is never that which conceals the truth–it is the truth which conceals that there is none.
The simulacrum is true.
(Source: Stanford University)
The Westfield is real life, it’s the rest of the city centre that is the lie!
Life is basically birth -> school -> work -> shop -> death. With maybe some reproduction thrown in, if you’re lucky. Unless and until you reject capitalism in its entirety, that’s all your life is, all it ever can be. Precisely because you’ve never imagined anything else
You cannot pick and choose. You can’t love a quaint olde-worlde shop on Sadler Gate and abhor the Westfield: they are the same, the only difference is scale. One is a small, inefficient capitalist, the other a large, efficient one.
If you’ve ever got excited about buying any product, whether that’s a computer, shoes, a dress, a videogame, then you should be ecstatic about the Westfield. I mean, just look at it:
This is naked, brutal capitalism at its very best. This is a hyper-efficient shopping machine. It’s as gleaming and productive as an abattoir, as sleek and aerodynamic as a US bomb killing nine Iraqi children.
If you’re a science fiction fan, you’ll love the Westfield because it is the future, here. Now. It’s a moonbase, glowing under the regolith. It’s the all-providing cell that EM Forster wrote about in The Machine Stops, way back in 1909. (Read the full story here.)
It’s Asimov’s Caves of Steel.
It’s Le Corbusier, triumphant!
I took some video footage inside but when I returned home, it had magically transmogrified into Metropolis. But with an added Nut Hut. Look at this picture:
Those are my feet. I sat, alone, in the Westfield for an hour. It’s the most solitary place in Derby. Thousands of people, milling around. All of us alone. If you want a true spiritual revelation, don’t go to a church, go to Westfield. Because the Westfield, unlike every religious building ever built, isn’t lying to you. It isn’t pretending there’s a God or objective morality or truth or some afterlife or that you’re coming back as a chicken.
It just wants to sell you stuff. Simple. Clean. Honest.
I think a lot of people are annoyed at the Westfield because it’s too clean a mirror. When we’re ambling around rustic markets in Holidayland or browsing through the racks of independent record shops, we can pretend we’re different. After all, we are buying different records, different clothes, specialist cheeses, fine wines. We’re not consumerist sheep!
And then the Westfield opens and slaps us in our fat fucking faces. We walk round and see thousands of other slack-jawed sheeple. And then we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the ridiculous wankart frontage of All Saints…
…and we look exactly the same.
Look, I’ll be kind. And quick. And helpful:
If you can’t join me in celebrating the opening of Westfield, then here’s what you can do:
There you go – simple, innit? Don’t like big bastard shopping centres? Then just go and overturn the economic system that creates and necessitates them. Stop gassing on about ‘soulless boxes’ and claiming to be above it when you’re first in the queue for your Egg McMuffin. Unless you live in a yurt and recycle your shit into a totally self-sustaining vegan diet, you’re as much of a consumer as I am. As anyone is.
You can’t pick and choose which bits of capitalism you get. It’s not a fucking buffet. The Westfield is exactly what you ordered.