Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Sweden, So Much To Answer For

One day I might find myself in Room 101. It could happen. The government adopted doublespeak some time ago and continues to bring in laws that it claims are essential to curb the ever-present terrorism threat but that also subtly change the way we live our lives without us even noticing. I know the terrorism threat is real but I don't see how a national ID card or the stealthy way the government is introducing laws that combat legitimate public protest is going to change anything.

Woah, calm down Ian! What happened there?! This was supposed to be a light-hearted rant about some trivial event in my life and suddenly, after years of apathy, I turned into someone who actually cares. Enough of that and back to the story....

Should I find myself in Room 101 I would, of course, have to face my worst nightmare. For Winston Smith it was rats gnawing his face (until he ratted on his lover. Ha! Pun!). I imagine others would face the same fate since rats are reviled by so many. At present, and I mean today at this specific time and maybe for a few days yet and no longer, I have no doubt what I would find should I have to enter that infernal place. I would walk through the door to find myself in a well lit room. On the floor would be an arrow and I would follow it. The room would be very large but various structures give it a maze-like quality that ensure that I visit every part of its huge area so that I don't miss any of it. The arrow guides me through the maze with thousands of other people. We would all be walking very slowly, sometimes retracing our steps back through the maze so as to reinspect some part of it that was previously missed.

I might as well stop waffling on in this ridiculous quasi-mysterious manner, I'm even boring myself now. I'm referring to Ikea, or as Dante referred to it, the Fourth Circle of Hell. I went there last night for the purpose of acquiring a few items for my bedroom. I left there in a state somewhere between despair and murderous rage.

No-one enters the Wembley branch of Ikea in a good mood. In order to get there you need to drive a few miles along one of the ugliest roads on God's Earth, the North Circular. It's grim, maybe London at its most unpleasant. Just make sure you don't take a wrong turn into Stonebridge Park....And then you arrive and, if you're lucky, it will take you less than 10 minutes to find a parking space before you wander into consumer paradise.

It all looks appealing enough to begin with. Everything is very well ordered and well lit and well spaced out. The goods are pleasing on the eye. Stylish, but not intimidatingly so. Populist, you might say. And certainly very popular judging by all the people there. You don't miss anything the store has to offer because you can't. There is a single route and you must follow it, deviation is impossible. And it goes on and on. Bland and inoffensive rules here and you will see every bland and inoffensive item the store has whether you want to or not.

I looked up Ikea on wikipedia and found the following information:

IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad was, as a teen, directly involved in the pro-Nazi New Swedish Movement (Nysvenska Rörelsen) until at least 1945, causing tensions when IKEA began opening stores in Israel.

It all now begins to make sense. The order. The uniformity. The brown-shirted staff (actually, I made that up. They wear a tasteful and non-threatening blue). It's a totalitarian utopia and we're all falling for it. Our desire for cheap yet stylish living room furniture is blinding us to what is really going on. When Hitler talked of lebensraum he didn't mean room for his master race to breed and live, he was referring to actual living rooms! Do you see!?

However, there is one area in which Ikea falls short in its ambition to become the flagship store of the extreme right and is also the main source of my hatred of the place. After about ninety minutes shopping I had decided upon a bookcase, bedside table and television stand. I collected them from the warehouse area and made my way to the checkout only to find a huge scrum of people all doing the same as me. I would have had to wait in line for a further half hour. It was 10.45 on a Monday night! Already tired from a few sleepless nights and irritable from spending time in consumer hell I took no time at all deciding on my course of action. I swore loudly, left the store and drove home without my goods. I thought efficiency was the one big thing that a fascist regime might have in its favour. After all, if Mussolini managed to make the trains run on time all those decades ago, then what would surely have been his favoured home furnishing outlet can open a few more checkouts!

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