Food Chain


The world has morphed. Where once Attenborough’s exploits zoomed in on the scale of the planet, today we pay more mind to his fatherly tones and the Hi-def resolution of the Beeb’s camera work. The world has shrunk like my favourite wool jumper through my adolescence. It seems almost as if with the passing of eternity, we human beings have continually lost our sense of wonder.

In what appears to be our roaring 20s as a species we have not lost interest in things. In fact, I’d say that we have managed to become incredibly self-absorbed in the advent of globalisation. Now, I know that we are all incredible, especially after a few pints but this self-absorption has manifested itself in a sickening, crass bastardry.

Recently, I started a weekend job that gave me the closest glimpse so far into this phenomenon. I’ll attempt  to not mention the company’s name as pushing trolleys is my passion and I would hate to lose employment in this harsh, Scandinavian climate. The company only operates via massive stores, often planted in retail environs, often featuring mystery smells as per nearby power stations. These hypermarkets offer the best sample of humanity’s modern madness.

As children, we are all taught the doctrine of social norms – the concept of politeness. Even those who do not observe this doctrine are at least aware of the normalcy of its practice. With that said, it is astonishing to see the scale in which generally polite people, when outside of their usual stomping grounds and into the hypermarket atmosphere turn into slow witted sloths or slack jawed piranha.

I have seen infants and pregnant women ignored at zebra crossings. I have seen vegans eat and litter with the frequency of bovine. I have, and this is the worst, suffered the ignominy of helping customers lift and cram cases of truly wooden furniture (as in lifeless, yes?) into the tawdriest of Ford KAs without thanks.

The true horror is that this behaviour is not limited to the not-so-local hypermarket. It is and has been a creeping feature of western society arguably since the birth of libertarianism (not that I’m trying to make a political connection). There is a depth to the circumstantial concession of manners in public. This behaviour, much to the dismay of friends of mine from outside of London, is rampant in the rat race culture.

When catching the tube, a glimpse into the eyes of your fellow man or woman will reveal the mindlessness of the crowd. A groupthink culture when people are in large crowds has helped to foster self-absorption. At work I see people who are parked up by a trolley depot, flinging trolleys towards an easier bunch of also-flungs. At a train station, the same people might walk past a lady with a twin pram and another infant without so much of a glance.

Why the lack of empathy? In my own scenario some might say, ‘you are getting paid for the service’. The problem with that logic is that they equate payment to a price for disrespect. This, I can openly admit, only really occurred to me when, at work, we were encouraged to just chuck customer’s rubbish onto the floor. One day, a lady in her middle years approached me and pleaded that I stop. I explained that my boss said I should do it, she pleaded further. Our actions more than tripled her workload, granted there are near no bins in the store, but I knew that I hated it when people flung trolleys and since then I have at least attempted to carry rubbish until I find bins ever since. I could be in her position on the proverbial food chain.