Francis Sedgemore’s anti-IKEA missive (itself triggered by a post by Ario) provides me with the cue for a bit of shameless self-promotion.
This solipsistic auto-posting aside, I firmly agree with Francis: IKEA is from hell. Apart from being a place where Obscene Desserts almost inevitably get dangerously close to divorce, the multicolour universe of IKEA is a totalitarian nightmare for anybody in their right mind and endowed with a sense (however rudimentary) of individualism and free will. Those who have been assimilated by the borgifying power of the IKEA catalogue (and such poor lost souls are legion) are beyond salvation.
I was therefore mildly taken aback when, a few years ago, a colleague with a small child suggested that a visit to the big blue box makes for “a nice family afternoon out.”
Poor child, I thought. Poor colleague. My parents would have laughed at the thought that a nice afternoon out means religiously shuffling through an air-conditioned furniture outlet with herds of other consumers like pilgrims around the Kaaba, piling unnecessary items in a typically unwieldy shopping trolley and topping the whole thing by gorging yourself on “original Swedish meatballs” till sick.
Our “nice family afternoons out” usually involved such simple pastimes as going for long walks in the lovely countryside near where I grew up or visiting places of cultural interest, going to the outdoor pool in the summer, ice skating in the winter and crazy-golfing in-between.
Shopping – which was less of a means of self-definition or identity-assertion then than it is now – didn’t come into it. Shopping was something that you wanted to get done in order to get on with life - on a weekend usually before 1pm on Saturday, when everything (and I mean: everything) shut down until Monday morning.
Maybe David Attenborough should extend his litany about British children's lack of knowledge about their country's flora and fauna to incorporate the deleterious influence of a certain Swedish style factory. Primed by their parent’s consumerist desires, lack of ingenuity and knowledge, children today are more likely to know the IKEA catalogue by heart than be able to name indigenous flowers and animals. Which is a shame indeed.