I've just visited the new Tesco which has opened around the corner. It's a big shed with every conceivable foodstuff supplemented by a range of other consumer goods. It is situated on what was once Kilmarnock's industrial heartland which has been increasingly given over to retail outlets in the dash to satisfy the endless appetite for material consumption.
This is not to rant about consumerism. In some ways it is the opposite. Life lives on consumption. It is essential to survival. The supermarket is one of the most outstanding success stories of civilisation. For tens of thousands of years human beings scavenged for survival. Often they failed. The supermarket represents an amazing triumph over nature's ruthless insufficiency.
So my point is not to hammer the evils of consumption but to bemoan the lack of celebration at such success. As I walked around the new store I couldn't help be amazed not just at the sheer quantity of what was available but at the astonishing organising principles invested in the project. Yet it is accepted in Kilmarnock's usual soulless way, its inhabitants shuffling around as they do, dropping stuff into baskets as if nothing eventful has happened.
Actually it is an event. It is such an event that the people of the town and surrounding areas should have been gathering to celebrate it. The adjoining park, once a symbol of civic pride, should have been given over to a carnival atmosphere of stalls and performers glorifying this great miracle of provision and conquest over adversity.
It was also going through my mind that this event was taking place at a time when the Western World's economy is apparently in the slammer. Not really. Yes the financial system took a knock. Yes the culprits that presided are well deserving of the reprimand especially when so massively over-rewarded for their incompetence. But financial systems generally are a mark of extraordinary intelligence. To take arithmetic abstractions and tie them into empirical realities and arrive at any kind of system at all is a near miracle. Without such an undertaking every transaction would be a fight to the death as it is in nature. When all this manifests in a Tesco five minutes walk away it should never go uncelebrated. There should be ritual sacrifice to the gods on a daily basis for the wonder of this achievement. That would be more in-keeping with a values system of some merit instead of the bullshit that is proffered. Something is suspect when an event so significant in this small town today can pass so unremarkable.
written just after a new Tesco superstore opened in Kilmarnock
commentary • 15.06.09