This week mild-mannered metal icon Ed Hunter displays his usual gentility and decorum by branding the county council a ‘cider-addled Cornish tart’…..read on…
Way back in the day, I remember primary school. And what I mostly remember, apart from childish fights, concrete, playground monitors, ‘sockball’, crap design, thick teachers, card-swaps, floury pink gum, tepid bottled milk and Emlyn Hughes, is that the only day duller than a weekday was a Sunday. Everything was shut, you had to go to church, and there was nowhere to get any sweets. Then faster than you could say hormonal explosion it was the 80s. Everything was shit, you had to wear a quiff, and there was nowhere to get any sex. But at least you could get stuff you wanted on Sunday. Chocolate, booze, porn – a whole world of cynically manufactured Warholesque goodies were constantly paraded in multi-million pound television adverts before a positively Eastern Bloc consumer and, due to the many years it took to mass-produce the security tag, subsequently stolen in vast quantities by young people with bleached hair, single earings, and bulging illegal bags of branded fondant sportswear.
The 80s was the consumer Big Bang, to which you can trace the birth or galactic expansion of most of the tremendous corporations of the 21st Century; Tesco, Asda, Coca-Cola, MacDonalds, you name it. I remember when the first MacDonalds came to town: the grown-ups all moaned, as usual, but for most young teenagers – it was the best day of our lives to date. Food that tasted good when you were sober, and like some alien neo-Biblical manna when you were wrecked. An endless supply of little straws to use as peashooters on what we assumed to be an unwitting but what in fact was more probably an uncaring adult public, and, best of all, one nice simple impossible to mistake place to meet girls and upset them.
I was busy in the 90s, so have absolutely no idea what went on, but now that science has empowered me, you, everybody with the cheap and affordable means to pontificate uncensored before a potentially infinitely small or large audience, let me as pompously as I possibly can – and I can pomp with the best of them – say this of the never-bleedin’-ending globalisation debate that seems to be raging in the Noughties and which I suspect few of us really understand while those that claim to, do so only in line with some quite terrifyingly dogmatic and often ludicrous political beliefs. Yes, let me proclaim loudly that I don’t think there is anything wrong with Tescos. Or Asda. Or especially that all-time favourite bete noir of your average pseudo-Spartan hummus throwing Trustafarian git, Coke. It’s just a really nice fizzy drink; it’s cheap, it’s tasty, and anyone who objects to it conquering the globe is a daft tart.
But just in case you were tempted to agree with me – let me say this too.
Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys, Coca-Cola, MacDonalds, Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Microsoft Windows, and all the rest of them are sucking out our brains and spitting the pureed remains into a massive constantly circulating trough of human detritus which they colletively stir, season, taste and finally swallow for their evil fuel like the killer robots of the Matrix trilogy.
Confused? Don’t be. Any competent GCSE Physicist in 2011 will tell you it’s not only perfectly possible but a general if inexplicable rule that two different states can be true at the same time. And what’s true of Quarks, is true of supermarkets.
Without Tesco, no-one poor would be able to get tons of nice stuff to eat (every evening between seven and eight pm). There would be no big shop in which you didn’t have to worry about dropping that big old bag or bottle of vanity goods because the store would always replace it and there would definitely be nowhere you could buy something, half-eat it, bring it back and say you didn’t like it and get the full cash price returned and another donut. Tesco is a kind of Homer Simpson dreamworld, in which the most idiotic savant can swan around concentrating exclusively on clever wordplay and cosmopolitan tomfoolery without ever having to worry that their endemic inability not to drop things or remember anything dull will stand in the way of having fun. So Hooray for Tesco.
But – at the exact same time – without Tesco, well-off people wouldn’t blow quite so much money they can’t afford on crap they didn’t really want (every time they go into any large superstore and walk down more than one aisle). And there would be lots of small shops from which you wouldn’t want to walk out without paying for goods you stupidly dropped, because the owner would most probably be an in-law, work in the local, and throw you out early all next week as revenge. And more importantly, we would be forced to rely more on our own, not so totally inadequate resources for food (just stop any passing farmer anywhere in the Duchy for more on that one).
Now, in a science fiction utopia of global government and long-term plans, Tesco would never get anywhere. Neither would cars run on fossil fuel, stretch limos, drug dealers, soap operas, pop music or Donald Trump. Because nothing that banked on human selfishness and stupidity, was damaging to individuals, unjust to society as a whole, or possibly just in poor taste, would make it past the international drawing board. An enlightened elite would draw up thousand year social and economic projections and, confident in their global power over you me and the next impotent blogger relegated to a dicreetly censored corner of hyperspace, jet us all into space to politely colonise it. The only problem is the time-honoured and obvious one: ironically, we can’t trust ourselves to produce an enlightened elite to look after us or decide our ‘best interests’. Governments and legal institutions – whether they belong to the historical departments of the Third Reich and the Communist Bloc, or the present-day offices of ‘family courts’ and ‘Social Services’ – once given dictatorial power to decide what is in the best interest of other people will always and unfailingly simply decide what is in their own best interest at the usually terrible expense of those who are placed in their power. It’s a concete fact of human life. We like to cast the wartime Germans as barbarians because they carried out a genocide and gave the excuse as a nation that they were ‘only obeying orders’, but the Milgram Experiments showed how many of us would have done exactly the same thing, and of course the Elephant in the Milgram room is an even more suggestive one: the notorious experiments, in which many of the subjects unquestioningly tortured unseen victims to apparent death, were carried out in a democracy: had a German refused to push Milgrams buttons in 1940, there’s every chance he or she would have been summarily shot. Human beings are as bad as they are good, or as weak as they are strong, true to the tantalising quantum world in which scientists would now have us believe we live, and they can only exist happily in a free world of organised chaos, in which the only rules set in stone are to not hurt anyone physically, and even those rules are subject to some pretty random and chaotic scrutiny, in the form of randomly picked juries. Which is why democratic politics and big ideas, be it space travel, eco-crusading, supersonic passenger planes or undersea tunnels, just don’t get along.
So what do we do? The answer is we put a democratic spanner in the works of the political machine, and just put up with it not working all that well because it’s better than letting it crush us all to death. But that doesn’t stop those few lucky individuals handed what little power they can be trusted with as mortals using their heads every now and then – like maybe shaking those heads vigorously, when one of the monolithic all-conquering corporations we have to live with asks to sink its loss-leading teeth into a tiny town like Camelford?
What are Cornwall’s Councillors thinking? Aren’t they supposed to be looking out for us – the people that voted them in and can damn well vote them out – when the big bad world comes knocking on our door waving sparkly things and asking to take off with our bread plants? What do they think Tesco is? Our rich uncle? Can’t they look at money without going weak at the knees? I think we all want a chaste and virtuous political body scrutinising applications by great fat grinning supermarkets to buy up our old schools don’t we? Instead of some cider-addled country tart that just can’t say No? What is going on?
Camelford, at last count, has about 2,256 residents. There is already – for reasons best known to our wanton local authority – a monstrous plan to build the set of 1990s sitcom Brookside all over one end of it with a simply vast Asda or Morrisons or who cares what providing it’s rotten, overfed, sugar-soaked endlessly palpitating ‘heart’. Come 2015, by the time you’ve circumnavigated that eyesore on your way into town there’ll just be a parade of empty shops To Let before you’re confronted with ugly little signs pointing you to the big old Tesco. As local girl Clare Hodgson pointed out to the News this week Tesco do tend to sell the same things a local shops, and there are TWO of the Corporate stores within easy reach of Camelford. Who needs another?
Sometimes, things that appear complicated are simple. And in this case, a simple ‘No’ should have been the answer to all the academic questions councillors probably asked themselves when looking at Tesco’s big fat cheque. Sometimes, a bit of traditional home-spun wisdom can make a lot more long term sense than all the graphs and budget deficits and balance sheets and general BS in the world. And sometimes, we should perhaps be more vocal in reminding our democratically elected politicians and their apolitical servants in the executive that they serve us – the people of Cornwall and the residents of Camelford – not themselves.
Perhaps we should take our childish council by the hand, as they wander agog through dazzling arrays of promises and pledges at their local supermarket lobbyists, pull them to one side and talk to them in a language their mothers and fathers no doubt wisely employed years ago.
Because, my loves, a Tesco can be a good thing – but you can always have too much of a good thing…..