Sunday, 24 April 2011

Every little helps


Reproduced in full courtesy of things to do in Balham when you're dead

There was a big old riot in Bristol last night, resulting in the smashing up of a Tesco. I hold no particular brief for Tesco Express, but I'm the last person to complain when I need late night milk.
There's not a lot in the news yet, but it seems that a bunch of superannuated studenty greebos concerned activist citizens, squatting in a violently-painted building with the filthy name "Telepathic Heights" (ugh), were to be evicted after a long-running court battle. And there were rumours they were preparing to firebomb a new Tesco opposite their house too. So the police stepped in. And because the entire country is aflame and it's like Paris '68 and we're all rushing to man the barricades, it turned into a riot. And Tescos was smashed up. Cue breathy reportage from the streets.

Of course the civil disorder was the fault of the police. Who were - AS BLOODY USUAL - disproportionate in their response (although of course anything other than standing by whilst legal enterprises are demolished counts as disproportionate). The police are always disproportionate. Funnily enough, they're especially disproportionate in self-styled "cultural quarters". Stokes Croft in Bristol is a cultural quarter. I'm guessing - in my terribly blinkered and close-minded way - this means there are a handful of white rastas juggling in the street whilst a couple of downtrodden Laurie Penny public school girls weave daisies into their pubes. I hate cultural quarters. It makes me want to go to Tesco Express in Stokes Croft and purchase every single item made by Nestle, every single bag of non-Fairtrade coffee, every Israeli avocado and then smear them all over myself outside Telepathic Heights whilst screaming and wiping my bum with £5 notes. One git said "the message [of Telepathic Heights] is one of freedom, not just getting stuck in the system or having a 9-5pm job". Yeah well I'd like to live like you too, shit head. I'd like to sit around playing a tin whistle and eating lentils, but - you know what - I don't want to die on the street at 35. Shove that up your system.
But meanwhile Bristol is still drowning in Tescos, probably. So here's a tip for the illegal residents of Telepathic Heights. Although - given they're so telepathic - they'll probably already know it. If you don't want to feed the beast, don't buy your groceries there. It's Tele-pathetically simple.
If Tesco cause local shops to shut down - which they probably do - and you have a problem with it; if people are so angry about local mom & pop stores closing, don't shop at Tesco.
Then it will shut down and all the falafel shops and vegan superstores can move back in. It's a very simple bit of economic theory. Build it, and they won't come, because they're too busy shopping for hemp seeds next door. Campaigners have stated that 90% of the local population didn't want the shop to be built and actively fought the council. OK, well talk to the council about that - whilst not shopping there. Sadly, a spokesperson for Tesco said 3,000 shoppers have been through the doors in the week since the shop opened. Using the protestors' figures, that can only be the 10% of the population who didn't boycott the new shop. That would make the population of Stokes Croft 300,000. Really? What is certainly true is that well over 90% of the local population will be against senseless acts of violence against property.
I buy my fruit and veg from the market stall in Balham, when I can - but it's not always convenient, and I'll happily pay a premium for convenience generally - because I have a job (and it doesn't involve teaching performance art or poi). Small, well-run local shops, if they successfully meet a need, will thrive. Chadwicks here in Balham seems to do alright. But why do you think that Tesco head office have decided to plonk down a shop in this precise location? It's because they think there's a local demand for ready meals and emergency toilet paper. There may well be five other branches within spitting distance, but why would you doubt that one of the UK's most sucessful corporates wouldn't undertake some pretty complicated modelling before investing its cash on yet another branch. Here's an insight for you - Tesco don't want the branches to have to compete with each other, they want all of them to make enormous profits. They know there's a need, so get over it and go buy yourselves some Rizlas and Pringles.
And guess what. Plenty of people who walk past your hideously garish squat every day would probably be grateful for a McTesco-job. They're the people who didn't get to go to university, unlike you and Leaf and Tigerlily. It may well not be the greatest employment in the world, but you get a uniform, a staff discount and a salary - and there are 3 million people out there who haven't got that at the moment. What kind of muddle-headed bullshit makes these self-professed anarchists think smashing up a provider of local employment - because they don't like it - is acceptable? Can we really retrain all the checkout staff to make organic soy lattes?

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