The Day Of The Lidl Unimatrix
On Lidl's Colossal Mothership And English Alienation
On my recent sojourn in the South of England, I paid close attention to the feel of the place and the land. As a northerner, the south of England was always partly idealised but also unfamiliar. The North has been primarily motivated to overcome its post-industrial hangover. Much of the development has taken place on what the state bureaucrats have called ‘‘Brownfield’’ sites which means they were once in use and so, conveniently, will never be able to lay claim to any protection. As is so often the case, managerial designations serve to do the opposite of what they claim. In England, almost any patch of land can be said to have been developed or had a permanent structure on it at some point, and so planning applications glide through the approval phase with relative ease.
Not surprisingly, my impression of the English heartlands was gently rolling hills and greenery interspersed with mock Tudor architecture and pubs called The Fox and Badger. Such places still existed but, at least between Oxford and Luton, they seemed caged and throttled by roads, hijabs, and the general infrastructural demands of neoliberal economics. Naturally, I was making such observations from behind a car window traveling along a road. I couldn’t help but wonder about the places set back a few miles slightly out of the glare of modernity. The quintessentially English experience existed like a tree covered in too much ivy, so much so that one had to question if the tree still existed independently. Yes, it was possible to ‘‘get away’’, perhaps, but that would be a conscious act to escape, and the escape would never be total because ‘‘it’’ was merely one or two hills over.
The arbitrary bureaucratic designations embedded within the planning of infrastructure do not account for ‘‘feeling’’ because the feeling cannot be quantified and set down as digits. The weird results of such planning I saw with my own eyes in Sussex about five years ago. The Sussex Downs are a beautiful area and encapsulate the feeling of Old England perfectly. However, as I stood at the peak of one hill I looked down and saw new-build flats and a warehouse or two. The development had not infringed upon the land set aside for the Downs themselves, rather it halted right at the official designation and gone no further — because it couldn’t. Therefore technically, and legally, the Downs had not been desecrated or changed, but the view from the top, the area surrounding it, had become just more urban sprawl. The same processes and technocratic logic inform the planners who envelop ancient villages within a donut of warehouses and new-build flats. Strictly speaking, nothing at all has changed. In reality, everything has.
However, every so often in the planning process all pretense and managerial sophistry is jettisoned and the beast of globalism is allowed to feast upon the land unhindered by any niceties or cap doffing to aesthetics. Nowhere is that more horrifyingly apparent than in the truly colossal, gigantic Lidl warehouse on the outskirts of Luton.
Having spent an hour gazing through the car window pondering the changing face of Middle England, I gawped in astonishment and terror at the Lidl building. For me, this was the moment in fantasy and sci-fi when the full weight and strength of the antagonist is unveiled. The screen darkens under the shadow of the Superstar Destroyer, a tear shed at the chanting horde of Urakai. As it happens, what I had stumbled across was more closely related to the Borg Unimatrix. This was a “central hub” in Lidl’s logistical empire, a nest that supplied cheap foods and Chinese tat to its various organs and spores planted across the nation. Here dwelled the Brain Bug, the one that can actually think!
I found it ominous and sinister that the Lidl logo had not been upscaled to account for the size of the construction, almost as if they wanted it — and our sense of scale — to be set awry and off-kilter. There appeared to be some sort of control tower separate from the main Unimatrix connected only by a bridge. Yet the control tower was the size of an office block in its own right. People would see out their entire working lives in the Lidl control tower - the petty squabbles, Christmas piss-ups, the jockeying for promotions and the odd illicit shag would all happen within just the tower.
In terms of raw statistics, the Lidl Unimatrix outside of Luton is 1.2 million square feet in size. The warehouse staff will lift 9,800 pallets filling 300 lorries with Lidl produce — every day. The Lidl Unimatrix will employ 1,500 staff though the automation is already being heralded as a future inevitability, presumably powered by the extensive solar paneling network latticed across the roof of the warehouse.
This, then, is what it’s all about.
To misquote a film from the 1970s:
‘‘There are no nations, there are no people, there are no yearnings of mythical aesthetics and being rooted to a place. It is a world, Mr. Beale, of logistical hubs the size of small towns, of consumers, and Chinese-made garden lanterns for £2 which will need replacing after a light sprinkle of rain!’’.
Seen from this perspective, it becomes clear what England, and for that matter the West, actually is: a supply chain distribution network with a nation, culture, and people as entirely superfluous forms dangling from its bloated body.
Supplying Chinese-made garden lanterns and frozen cheesy chicken nuggets is infinitely more important than the nature and identity of the people they are being supplied to. Therefore, another supply chain, process, and distribution centre are needed to supply the consumer bio-mass that will enable the further expansion of the frozen cheesy chicken nugget empire…
Nigel Farage recently quipped that the African migrants arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa would lead to the “destruction of Europe”. Like many others, Farage is tactfully pointing out the “otherness” of the tens of thousands of young men arriving, but then reassuring his audience and the Hate Speech commissars that the “destruction” he’s alluding to is political in nature, not racial or cultural. Still, though, the fear and dread elicited in many by the African mass gathering on the shores of Europe is instructive of the perception management and reframing that takes place.
The migrants “just off the boat” are terrible optics for the system because what Europe sees is the product in its unrefined and un-packaged state. Like seeing the cheesy chicken nuggets in their raw chemical slop form, we’re seeing the immigrants before the PR and corporate sloganeering have remade them into something more digestible for mass consumption.
The bureaucrats of the EU are springing into action and calling on the need for more distribution centres and processing facilities across Europe. More “central hubs” and dispersal networks to work in tandem with logistical partners and settlement schemes. All the while striving to ensure that public perception is carefully managed and the complaints departments are not overwhelmed.
The raw, unrefined bio-mass must be repackaged in the minds of the public as a matter of urgency.
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