Peeling off the wallpaper: Capitalism, Coronavirus and Consumerism
“The factories are born, thrive briefly, turn to husks as the hand lettered signs above the shops give way to corporate logo; The same insignia reiterated; the same faerie ring of names about each city centre; the same architecture: Docklands über alles. And each town stamped from the same diseases potato in this great and final wallpapering of England.” — Alan Moore, “The Birth Caul” from A Disease of Language
The above passage, in addition to being grimly nihilist, is both correct in its observations and wrong in its assumption. There is no doubt England, and Britain more generally, has slowly become wallpapered by the same brands and franchises dominating every single town and city. When travelling abroad, we’re shocked if we find out that the locals enjoy the same chain restaurants, clothing stores, supermarkets, fast-food joints and packets of crisp we have back in Blighty, but we’re flabbergasted if someone who lives a couple of miles away tells you they “don’t even have a Primark.”
What Moore get’s wrong though is his assumption this repeated, dull monotony of pre-fabricated local commerce was “final”. Even the old warlock ( who in 1982 predicted that Britain would one day have surveillance cameras on every street corner and a right-wing, techno-fascist government would be obsessed with AI as a means of governance) could not know just how badly the UK would respond to COVID-19 and how it would change the nation.
“…we’ve started to strip away Britain’s commercial and consumerist wallpaper to see what lies beneath these ideas.”
We cannot ignore the massive detriment to physical and mental health the crisis has had on individual nor should we ignore the loss of jobs and income that will have lasting effects. However lockdown, despite its hardships, may have provided us with some perspective. In deciding which of our services and products are essential or non-essential, we’ve started to strip away Britain's commercial and consumerist wallpaper to see what lies beneath these ideas.
Ubiquitous city-sarnie-shop Pret-A-Manger announced it would be firing 3,000 of its employees, with 2,910 of those coming from the lower waged stores…