Thursday, 23 April 2009

The IKEA test of the free spirit

Non-Europeans unfamilar with the IKEA phenomenon will need some background: IKEA is a Swedish manufacturing giant that no has huge warehouses outside every major European city (or so it seems). Hence my mother in a small town in northern England now has exactly (EXACTLY) the same furniture as a Greek family living in a suburb of Thessaloniki in northern Greece.

I went to IKEA. It was painful. I couldn't eat any of the traditional Swedish meatballs they were serving (because the idea is that you don't just go to IKEA to buy cheap flat-pack furniture - it is meant to be pretty much a day out for the family, hence the children's play area and the traditional Swedish meatballs).

What sprung to mind was the IKEA test of the free spirit (for readers of Nietzsche who might be wondering if they are, or are not, free spirits). To take the test you have to need furniture and really want to get it at the lowest possible price. You then go to IKEA, where there is such an abundance of cheap furniture (all so clevely flat-packed that it is virtually possible to furnish an entire dining room for a family of five with stuff that can be fitted into a small hatchback on a single run). And then you must see how you feel. Those who pass the test are those who genuinely feel an achingly deep nausea as horrible images of that Munchean scream come to mind again - a screaming figure on a bridge (as I recall) - a bridge to...nowhere?

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