Ikea, Cowhide KOLDBY
There’s a long list of things you shouldn’t do after reading an enviro-anarchist manifesto, and visiting Ikea probably tops the list. Going near a bridge would be another one, because anarchism is pretty darn depressing.
My Spanish teacher Jesús Sepúlveda, an author and radical environmental activist, assigned his essay “The Garden of Peculiarities” for next week’s class. I cracked open the little book today during a journey with my friends to Portland.
In “Garden,” Sepúlveda paints an apocalyptic world full of robotic consumers who toil under multinational corporations in order to earn money, which is actually a mechanism of control imposed by the Estado (the State). Meanwhile, he writes, humanity is alienating itself from and destroying what’s left of the environment. “Humans could not survive without the natural world,” repeats Sepúlveda over and over, calling for a change in the relationship between nature and personkind from one of human dominance and extraction to symbiosis and ternura (tenderness).
Imagine, dear reader, what it was like to enter the Sweden’s version of Wal-Mart after two hours of that. I stumbled through the densely packed corridors, staring at thousands of price tags dangling over fake living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, dining rooms, and offices. It’s an alternate universe where everything is sparkling clean, the appliances don’t work, and you have a clear visual of the strain consumer living puts on your wallet (and therefore your career and therefore your body/life).
Ikea, The Green Room
What would Señor Sepúlveda say if he saw the mountain of decorative cowhides piled at the edge of the labyrinth’s path? “The skin will retain its natural appearance and quality over a long time,” the sign reads. Yeah, except the “natural” state of cow skin is to be attached to the body of a cow.
I circled aimlessly through the store (“I have a feeling I’ve already been in this room…”) until I found signs pointing to the checkout. The final room before the exit is called the Green Room, a place where domesticated plants are organized and grouped onto tables, waiting to be placed in giant shopping carts and nurtured in air conditioned homes. I bent down and surveyed the canopy, shocked at the stunning contrast between the natural green and the sterile white walls of the store.
I don’t know what the real solution to our environmental and economic woes might be, and I’m not convinced that dispensing of the government is a good idea. But Ikea is a stunning art-vertisement for an eery, flawless, mechanically packaged world, and I’m not sure I want to participate.
And no, I did not try those famous Swedish meatballs.