Let’s take New Labour as an introductory example, in this little thesis of mine. Mr Blair and chums had to sell out, beyond the edge of taste, just to get Sure start, the minimum wage and record investment in the NHS. The price to pay for this has been to watch as Labour behaved like a dirty uncle at a wedding, flirting with big business and putting its wandering hands right up the skirt of American foreign policy. What was all this for? Because some time in the 80s the party realised that however correct all of Michael Foot’s policies were, normal people were just too thick and selfish to vote for them.
I have realised recently that far too many of us spend our sad, pointless lives like Michael Foots, waiting at the bus stop, for the world to re-order itself so that we suddenly have the influence, love, and wealth that we deserve, without ever having to sell out. In this way I spent most of my childhood and adolescence getting to know the newest music before others (because that’s how boys get girls in the movies) and later, in that miniscule period of time when bands release records you KNOW are written about you, I discovered my own look by trailing around charity shops.
Charity shops seem like such good places to find cool clothes, all those retro styles and 80s Olympic or World Cup T-shirts. Walking around campus there are people looking intimidatingly good in some beaten up jacket and trousers that look like a tractor raped them, even though these clothes don’t exist. I swear that unless you’re one of those fate-chosen lucky people, who walks in just as Kate Moss and Johnny Depp are giving Oxfam their cast-offs, and immediately goes into the Mash Tun to find themselves an inexplicably attractive girlfriend whose family work in the BBC and ‘just happen’ to have a vacancy in their department at the moment, then life just doesn’t work like this. In reality, the T-shirts are stretched, the jackets smell like dead people and the trousers are all designed for people whose waists hold in them a lifetime of Pukka pies and Vimto.
Before I had this epiphany, I used to walk by Top Man with an annoyed disbelief. ‘Look’, I used to say to myself, ‘at those funny people who think they can just buy the culture I have worked so hard to include myself in’. Surely a Top Man outfit, a knowledge of two or three tracks by Tom Waits, Joanna Newsom and Joy Division, and a stupid hair cut couldn’t fool people to see me as worth only as much as those corporate,
unimaginative space–wasters? Tragically, I was wrong. It seems that there is no use cultivating any kind of individuality anymore; buy a better one down at Churchill Square. Yeah, I will be adding to the destruction of youth culture, but, hey, people will respect me and girls in the street might not pass me by with a look of amused disgust.