Chadstone. No one gets out alive.

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Chadstone is the largest shrine to Mammon in Australia. So I went to find out whether the population of Australia (the amount of people who visit each year) could be wrong.

They are. Or I am. You choose.

Chadstone is a metastasised tumour of offensive proportions that’s easy to find. You simply follow the line of dead-eyed wage slaves attracted to this cynical, hermetically sealed weatherless biosphere by the promise a new phone will fix their punctured soul and homewares and jumbo caramel mugachinos will fill their gaping cavern of disappointment.

I was thrilled to have the ”almost 9000 car spaces but I still couldn’t find a park” experience along with everyone else who’d thought on this beautiful Sunday morning: ”Mmmm, how can we spend the day avoiding marinating in each other’s emotional cesspool and distracting ourselves from the darkness of our souls? I know! Let’s head down to the abattoir of souls and buy cheap clothes, processed food and anything with a remote control.”

Chadstone is the same as any other shopping centre, just bigger. The domed glass roof and palm trees only highlight the vast gap between life and this soul-destroying cathedral to emptiness.

Four-wheel-drive mums trading passive-aggressive insults over skinny lattes in the food court. Eight-year-old girls looking like they’re about to audition for the Pussycat Dolls. Fat people with a burger in one hand and a bucket of Coke in the other. Old folk on scooters who’d give their right ventricle to be euthanased. A guy in a T-shirt that said Duck My Sick. Sneering, shuffling teenagers. And grown men having clothes bought for them by their mothers, I mean their wives, reminding me women marry men expecting to change them and men marry women expecting them to stay the same.

Why buy a doughnut when you can buy a doughnut maker? Water when you can buy a water filtration unit? Or a pie when you can buy a pie maker? Easy to clean, easy to store and 20 per cent off! Why buy clothes when you could purchase a garment to enhance your ”lifestyle experience”? Most people had more than 10 loyalty cards in their wallets. Loyalty card sluts.

The food is obscene. Its abundance and pointless variety communicate a lack of intrinsic value. As if it were not grown and prepared by humans. Just processed. As I passed the giant cookies and monstrous muffins, The Pancake Parlour looked lamer than usual. But there was an honesty in its lameness I respected. If anyone can illuminate me to the point of Pretzel World I’d forever be in their debt.

No one looks happy. Everyone looks anaesthetised. A day spent at Chadstone made me understand why they call these shopping centres complexes. Complex as in a psychological problem that’s difficult to analyse, understand or solve.

What does it say about a culture when shopping is considered a valid form of recreation? It says we have far too much money. The lemmings entering and exiting Chadstone look exactly like the gamblers at the casino. They bound in all excitement and optimism and leave stooped, sad and dragging their feet. Because as tragic as it is, Chadstone seems better than their real lives.

Memento mori is a Latin phrase that means ”remember you will die”. The phrase is also used to describe objects that remind people of their mortality. A mate has a skull as hers, to remind her to live life to the fullest and treasure each day and the people she loves.

Chadstone should be a huge memento mori for us all. If we knew we were all going to be dead in a week, shopping centres would be empty. Truth is, some of us will be dead. If you find yourself heading towards one of these spiritless palaces of consumption, memento mori. Remember you will die and chuck a screaming uey. And if you find yourself in captivity shuffling round with the walking cadavers in search of the next hit, ask yourself if you are already dead.

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