Tuesday, July 04, 2006

How I came to love the petit-bourgeois

Fun and games in Pizza HutAround Christmas last year I was involved in discussions that led to the setting up of the Mill Road "No Chains" group.

Mill Road is a road in Cambridge with a high density of independent shops, co-ops, a Mosque, Sikh temple, and all sorts of weird and wonderful things and has been surprisingly free of multi-national corporations.

Then came Subway, home of vile over priced sandwiches, and many residents looked askance but did nothing. When Pizza Hut and Chicken Cottage* both opened their doors people decided enough is enough and launched a campaign.

My confession is I was a bit offish about the whole thing. Support local businesses? Hardly very anti-capitalist is it.

But as time went on the whole thing attracted me more and more. For me it really comes down to the question - if I oppose neo-liberal globalisation and the encroachment of monopoly capitalism into our lives what makes more sense than to oppose the turning of every area into "an identikit town in an identikit world."

The people involved are not fighting a couple of franchises on a nimby basis, they are taking part in their front in the war against neo-liberalism - and unlike the many stalls up and down the country on a Saturday morning they are giving a concrete expression to why we oppose capitalism.

The campaign is a clear attempt to re-assert our humanity from a world of commodities and brands. That has shaped the way the campaign has organised itself. Of course, they've done all the usual things - petitions, open letters, every local shop has a poster in the window as well as many houses in the local streets - but there has also been a strong current of let's have fun.

The picture above is from an 'action' last week where twenty of us invaded Pizza Hut and had our own party - including helium filled balloons, music, bubbles and most importantly the game TWISTER. It was absolutely hilarious.

Making life taste better

The picture to the left is from a 'making life taste better' day of action where we gave out home made food for free outside Subway and Pizza Hut in a very successful attempt to counterpose the pre-packaged, processed, one size fits all version of food with the love and individuality that real human activity is capable of.

It's about time we learned that political activity does not have to fit into the frigid categories of leafletting, strikes and demonstrations - but also that in order to get across an anti-capitalist message you don't need to suck all the enjoyment out of it with dogmatic centralised control freakery.

It may also raise the idea that a liberated society is one that is better than the world we have today.



Cambridge Indymedia reports

* Chicken Cottage is the fastest growing chain in the world and sells halal chicken

14 comments:

stroppybird said...

"It's about time we learned that political activity does not have to fit into the frigid categories of leafletting, strikes and demonstrations - but also that in order to get across an anti-capitalist message you don't need to suck all the enjoyment out of it with dogmatic centralised control freakery."

Agree totally on that. I like your direct action of taking over Pizza Hut and having a party !!The left needs to be more creative in how it builds campaigns and involves people. So much is po faced and it turns many people away from listening to the message.

Jim Jay said...

Yeah, this determination to win the argument is just so unattractive - and it just doesn't work.

The whole idea of trying to show people there's an alternative rather than lecture them about how you know everything has got to be the way to go.

stroppybird said...

Again, I agree !! I sometimes wonder if it is more important to many on the left to score points against each other than actually make a damm bit of difference in the real world.

Jim Jay said...

There's a great line in the new Ken Loach film where one of the trainee IRA men is being reproached by his instructor because he spent more time looking at the ground avoiding puddles than keeping an eye out for Brits.

"They'll be clean shoes on your corpse!"

And it really made me think about the left's pedantic streak - better to have an immaculate set of ideas than to have an audience for them...

Anyway, I must go out into the real world!

stroppybird said...

Yep, the ideological 'clean shoes'.

Be careful in the real world :-)

badmatthew said...

Well i'll certainly be looking at Jim's shoes more carefully now, not just for cleanliness (first thing girls look at me mum always used to tell me), but also ideological purity. And i've suddently been transported to a RAR gig a lifetime ago when there was an obscure but energetic supportig act, who's standout song was 'Dog-dirt on my shoes'. Marvellous and so in-your-face.

AN said...

It was once pointed out to me that given the ubiquity of jeans and dressing down, shoes are one of the few ways that you can still tell an Englishman's class by his clothes.

It always astounds me that there are some otherwise quite educated and cultured people who are prepared to wear brown shoes with a blue suit. Or coloured socks!

Whatever did they teach them at school.

AN said...

and that goodness you explained what "chicken cottage" is - a chain of halal restauants.

I had nightmare visions of a place where chicken met for anonymus sex, and that would be greedy as they already have "Kenny rogers chickens"

Jim Jay said...

Never look at my shoes too closely - I walk almost exclusively through the muddy puddles.

bob said...

Great first post - particularly great title!

Jim Jay said...

Cheers Bob.

"Hitchens on blowjobs" isn't a bad title for a post either!

stroppybird said...

Andy
"It always astounds me that there are some otherwise quite educated and cultured people who are prepared to wear brown shoes with a blue suit. Or coloured socks!
Whatever did they teach them at school. "

You should talk to Dave Osler about socks/shoes/suits :-) He points it out when he sees these style mistakes.


Jim

""Hitchens on blowjobs" isn't a bad title for a post either! "

You are veering into stroppyblog territory, its a slippery path.....

Renegade Eye said...

During the movement against the war in Vietnam days on Minneapolis, there was some vacant land, in a shopping area, near campus. There was a tremendous movement against that land being used to build a Red Barn franchise. The movement wanted a People's Park. Today there is neither there. You never know, what can come out of this type of struggle.

Pizza Hut's management gives $$, against abortion rights. Progressives in US, never go to Pizza Hut.

I'm linking to this blog.

Jim Jay said...

Cheers mate.

Are there any links to that struggle?

Be good to know more about what people did and what they felt they could have done better / lessons learned.