On a rather glum note, the graffitied chimney and urban resistance that impressed me on arrival are both virtually defunct. The chimney is in the process of demolition as I write, while the planned mall at St Kilda has got the go ahead. Of course the Save St Kilda campaign was always Nimbyism rather than an outlet of anarcho-syndicalist collective action, but it was the lesser evil against a behemoth of anonymous purchase power. Doesn't this country have enough fucking malls as it is? The forces of banalification win again.
I visited one of the places myself recently (all in the name of sociological research you understand) to go to Ikea. My God, how can one place inspire such contrary emotions? On one level, I love it. Everywhere you look there is elegant yet functional design, and all at low, low prices. Surely this is the realisation of the modernist dream? Well, you can almost convince yourself "yes", when you notice that everything in the store (bar the gourmet food items) is stamped with 'Made in China'. The products are so cheap not because we live in a socialist paradise but because some other poor bastard lives in a communist hell. They are produced not by smiling workers who get a fair share of their output, but by depressed non-unionised near-slaves, who work 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week in the grim factories of a pseudo-Maoist regime keen to swallow the phallus of neo-liberalism. What awfulness. And all around are pictures (not unlike Maoist icons) of the smarmy Scandinavian designers who have drawn up these sleek commodities. Their smiles beam out, as well they might, having been educated in the inclusive and affluent 'Social Model' before foisting the hard labour onto some faceless yellow-skinned drones. It was almost unbearable, but I soothed my soul by buying an excellent chopping board, in which the knife is hidden within the board itself! In an age when Slavoj Žižek writes copy for Abercrombie & Fitch what else would one do?