damned if you do. damned if you don’t

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Just the other day I bought a book, Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain, where James Bloodworth pulls back the covers on the personal reality of zero-hour contracts, double shifts, social isolation and real-life minimum wage on the British breadline. One such job involved a stint in one of Amazon’s mega warehouses and pretty reading it does not make. Needless to say, even I could see the irony a mile-off had I bought the book from said massive online retailer so I shopped around and bought it from another, er…online retailer. Not quite what I had in mind and I fully concede that I’m as guilty as the next man for contributing to the obvious demise of our shopping-focused high street and their ubiquitous local book shop. ‘Fly Fishing’ by J.R. Hartley?

The final death knell of the high street has been predicted for almost twenty years yet somehow it manages to hang on and cling to life by its very fingertips. But for how long? Vacant sites, charity shops and short-term pop-up bargain stores selling tat proliferate and even estate agents, Domino’s and cheap ‘offies’ seem to be suffering in the current retail climate. It appears we are buying everything from Amazon, and for what little we don’t Ocado can always step-up to the mark. And it’s this strange ground that I worrying find myself sharing with Tiny Hands himself.

It is somewhat surprising to see the President of the most free-enterprise-supporting of all countries continually attacking an American company for selling consumers exactly what they want, at a price they’re happy with and delivering it to their door, overnight. Of course we all know it’s because its founder, Jeff Bezos, also owns the highly critical Washington Post, but even that doesn’t sit particularly comfortably with me. The owner of one of the most rapacious, commercially aggressive, overtly capitalist of organisations controlling a highly respected ‘old school’ organ of wisdom, knowledge and communication. Hobson’s choice if ever there was one.

I am sure we will one day look back at how the supremely open and democratic internet age has decimated worldwide working populations, concentrated power & wealth in the hands of a tiny tech minority, put the creative music industry to the sword and closed the doors on every real magazine & newspaper, banishing the feel of newsprint ink on ones’ fingers to a bygone age & distant memory. Once, businesses were inextricably tied to a community and each supported the other. The ‘disruptive’ t’internet does not feel the need for this relationship and the issue is now virtual vs local.

We’re not there yet but it we fail to change, or at least alter, our habits, the day we do finally wave goodbye to the high street can only be a short matter of time away.