I went on the tube recently. As we have discussed before, this is almost always a mistake, but the forecast was for heavy rain and I had a long way to go and a lot of wine to drink before heading home. I have managed to get my usage down to about once a week through steadily increasing bike mileage, but there are occasions when it is just convenient. Usually I go prepared with a good novel, but today was a split second decision so I had nothing to distract me on the long ride home. Except the adverts.
I feel like the city is being turned into one giant billboard. Out and about on Trusty I am not immune- road side hoardings are hard to avoid, and almost every bus I follow has some sales pitch on the back in my exact eyeline. However, other forms of transport, as I was recently reminded, are so much worse. The tube is completely plastered in them, these pernicious messages which attach themselves parasitically to our deepest wants and needs. Their incessant visual chanting offering to both pinpoint a problem and provide the solution irritates me most days, but by careful avoidance of commercial TV, radio and magazines I can usually tune them out. But underground, with no way of avoiding them I felt veritably oppressed by advertising. The worst are the mesmerising gauntlets of electronic posters down the sides of the escalators. What tipped me over the edge was that on my walk from the station an advert for Kellogg's cereal glowed eerily at me from the screen of the cash machine.
I feel like we're seconds from living in Minority Report, and tonight I want to run away to a cottage in the woods with no entertainment except big old novels.
I want my own brain back. I don't want to be bombarded with images of unrealistically attractive, rich, slim, cool people all living what claim to be better lives than mine. I want to enjoy my life, to revel in it, to love people for their wit and warmth and integrity not what they own or look like. I want to turn this culture's stupid, poisonously pervasive narrative on it's head. I'm tempted to stick up posters saying 'You look pretty alright as you are' or 'I don't care what your job title is, are you lovely?' or 'Isn't it a wonderful day for a bike ride?'
I know that there are many benefits of living in a successful, capitalist, society and one of the trade offs is being the target of constant attempts to make us buy, but today it doesn't feel like such a good deal.