Everyone is shocked – shocked I say! - by the looting happening in London. Where did these renegade youths learn to break into stores and snatch as much as they could carry?
The comments on the video are revealing:
“Am I the only one here who would dream about this?”
“Oh, no! You’re certainly not. I’m 25 and I still think this would be awesome….Imagine at a Best Buy or something!!”
“hell yeah, it would be rad to do at toys r us! I used to plot how I could get the most stuff and study the layout of the store.”
And what would you do with 20 Nintendos or a whole row of Stretch Armstrongs? It didn’t matter, the point of The Sweepstakes was that you could grab them and no police officer would shoot you. Of course you wouldn’t be able to fit the toys in your room, but who cares when they’re free? As the creepy disembodied faces say to each other when the contestant hits the telescopes: “One of those would be nice!” “Twenty would be better!”
And safe in their beds, a generation of kids drew maps in their heads of the cheap aisles to be avoided, and the expensive ones to hit first. After all, you only had so much time.
Fast forward a decade.
Two teens have been out all night burning and looting and breaking. Grassroots Keynesians, increasing aggregate demand one broken window at a time. It’s light already as they stumble through town, passing back and forth a bottle of lifted wine. When a reporter stops them to ask questions, they tell the truth without a shred of the employee handbook’s girlish shyness:
“You’re drinking a bottle of wine…?”
“At half-nine in the morning.”
“Yeah, free alcohol.”
“Will it go on again tonight?”
On the BBC site tonight – riot headquarters – a news ticker lists the shops as they’re looted:
“In Manchester, a recently opened fashion boutique in King Street owned by former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher has been hit by looters.”
“Latest stores to be looted in Manchester – Diesel, Bang and Olufsen, High and Mighty.”
It doesn’t occur to their judges that maybe the looters work at these stores every day, or at ones just like them. That they might walk down the aisles knowing they will never be able to afford the designer speakers or the fancy dresses they spend all day praising to customers.
At night, they still make maps.
Listen, it wasn’t our idea to call them “New Summer Beauty Must Haves.”
My Italian friend Claudia told me about a car ad in Italy with Vincent Cassel. The slogan he forcefully whispers at the end is “Il lusso e un diritto,” or “Luxury is a right.” And sure, the kids say, we believe you Vince. We’ve known since we saw The Sweepstakes. But the courts won’t hear our complaints, and the UN says they don’t have jurisdiction. How are we to exercise this so-called right? And they think of the maps, and the giant advertising billboards float helpfully like oversized guide posts.
As long as there’s good Champagne in this world, then let it get warm sloshing next to the tired legs of two drunk teenagers walking home in the mid-morning. God knows they’ll make better use of it than the banker the market meant it for.
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