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Fear and Loathing in IKEA, Experiencing Capitalism First Hand

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My life has been in chaos. My recent move from Kansas City Missouri to Cincinnati Ohio took a lot of time and effort. As I pulled into the new neighborhood I was moving to without ever seeing it I was a bit shocked. I would say it was a mild form of culture shock. I went from a high migrant urban area to a much more suburban white area nestled behind clusters of malls and walmarts. In the ghetto we didn’t have walmarts and malls near by. We had tiny little shops ran mostly by migrants and locals. Here everything seems to be a major national chain.

I thought I was going to get less radical as I pulled into this little prefabricated neighborhood. It seems the opposite happened. I thought I would get online and write about my experience with going to a walmart the first night we got on the road, but as time passed and I experienced more of this environment I found myself getting enraged and frustrated with much more.

I had my first experience with an Ikea. This really sent me over the edge. I had bought furniture in northeast Kansas City in the past and the experience was quite different. The furniture stores were often in older buildings. The furniture you would buy would be right out there. Often it was old furniture someone had fixed up and put out. Lots of second hand stuff. A few places sold new furniture in these old buildings also. But they were reasonable buildings, the kind that had been in the city over a hundred years or so. I had never seen anything like the nightmare that I saw which was Ikea.

I was sent to the store to buy a couch that was $150 bucks. I was kind of shocked that a new couch would cost so little. Maybe we shouldn’t be buying couches for $150 bucks brand new. Maybe that is part of the problem. A couch made in china by slave labor. We in the U.S. like to think that we are somehow above and past slavery, yet we still depend and rely on it each time we buy cheap crap at Walmart or Ikea. The slavery is out of sight and out of mind so it’s okay. As long as it’s not happening here in our borders, we can import it from other countries. Perhaps we should expect to pay a worker more for the product of their labor. None the less, I live in a capitalist society and I am attempting to try and have a similar standard of life as my fellow prols.

I was lost. Ikea was an overwhelmingly massive clutter of cheap made in china crap. Everyone seemed to be distracted by all the consumer goods laid out. I just wanted to get the couch I was sent for and was getting more frustrated by the moment. I couldn’t walk in and just get it. The store was laid out like a maze. The idea behind it’s design was that you would walk through a seemingly endless winding path which was intended to take you by every cheap consumer good they had laid out and ready to be purchased. You can’t just walk in ask for the couch and get out. Everyone seemed to be overjoyed with the chance to browse and buy as much as they could. It didn’t go over well with me. I wasn’t expecting this unending winding path of cheap crap. I just kept trying to find my way out to this ‘warehouse’ where the worker told me the couch would be. I didn’t realize I had to walk through this whole place to get there.

I started to panic. I was walking and walking and trying to get out. I took turn after turn following the signs seeming to only go deeper into this dungeon of consumerism. I started to panic. I was getting quite a bit claustrophobic. I didn’t know how I got so deep into this place beside the massive box of toilet brushes for a buck. I was frantically searching for a way out. I was feeling like a caveman who just stepped into the twenty first century. I know a few of the things I was thinking in my panic came out my mouth. “My God! How do you get out?” “This is massive” “I’m lost”. I have been known to get lost in all these modern stores as massive as they are, and Ikea may be the most massive one I have ever seen. It was almost a parody of everything I found repulsive about the Walmart I visited earlier in the week.

I eventually made my way to the warehouse with the couch at the very end and came to realize that I was buying a couch in a box. Christ almighty. Here I had moved into the what was left of the Levvittown era prefabricated houses. Everyone was striving to live in these little balsa wood boxes, speed around in their little metal boxes, work in their little boxed cubicles to keep up with their boxes and buy furniture in boxes. Here I was standing in the middle of the culture that fears communism and anarchism and has become comfortable with increasingly lower wages and increasingly cheaper crap all prepackaged, boxed and shipped in from china. Here I was standing on the grave of every craftsman and worker that ever lived. Here I was staring at all the good little underpaid happy workers all in their little matching uniforms just waiting for their shift to end so they could go back to their little box with the stuff they want to wrap up in boxes and put under a tree they set up in their levvittown track housing box. Christ, I was in hell. Humanity is dead capitalism is worshiped and served and this is our culture.

The worker works to consume the product of the capitalist. The worker finds no joy in their work, because the work in itself is joyless. The workers passion for the work is gone for the product of their labor is Warren Buffets. And to think, I’ve heard some mindless conservatives accusing him of being some kind of liberal. I think that is funny. As a kid my parents described communism as being a world where all the workers had to wear the same thing and take orders from some ruler and all individuality was crushed. I was seeing my parents fear of communism right here in front of my eyes, the society I was living in and it was capitalism. Someone lied.

Every time I walk into these places overflowing with cheap crap I think of Kropotkin addressing expropriation in Conquest of Bread where he says “The landlord owes his riches to the poverty of the peasants, and the wealth of the capitalist comes from the same source.” Here I see so many struggling with so much money going into these massive capitalist corporations and all those laboring are paid the lowest wage possible as the Capitalist who rules the corporation is raking in unheard of amounts of money. Here I see the workers laboring for the wealth of the capitalist. Here I see that with this much wealth and production that we just might be able to reach a post scarcity society, we just have to stop letting the capitalist rob the workers.

The workers are in an interesting predicament. The capitalist must sell them the products to continue to consume their wealth. The capitalist must have them produce to continue to sell them the product of their labor. The capitalist must force their wage down to continue to amass wealth, but if the capitalist forces the wage down too much the workers will not be able to continue to consume the very products they produced in the first place. Wealth is the production of the worker.

And we slave away at meaningless joyless jobs. We slave away distracted by our little boxed lives. We sit in our little boxed houses on our boxed couches staring into the glowing box remaining distracted of the real situation we are in. We are sold more distraction. We work to afford to be distracted from the reality of our situation, place and reality of life under capitalism.

Punk Johnny CashFear and Loathing in IKEA, Experiencing Capitalism First Hand

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