The Iranian regime has employed a method called “white torture” to punish political dissidents, especially journalists. The prisoner is locked in solitary confinement in a windowless, completely white room, with only white clothing, fed only white rice, forbidden to speak and kept in a totally silent environment. Ebrahim Nabavi, a victim of this practice, said in 2004 that “the loneliness never leaves you, long after you are ‘free.’”
I would never call Wilco’s new draw for coffee-addled undergrads white torture. This is mainly because people go there by choice.
The barren public restroom that the beleaguered students of the River Campus have taken to calling “New Starbucks” is so empty, so devoid of anything but harsh white light and mortal terror that it must be a cruel reflection of the nothingness that lurks within the souls of all you loyal Yellowjackets. It is a shrine to modern American nihilism, a kind of safe space for the overworked, somewhere to sit and face the understanding that we are all lost, that we probably have been for a while, and that all we have now is a caffeine habit and a thin meniscus of hope that it will all make sense once we hit junior year, senior year, once we graduate, once we get a job, once we get tenure, once we retire, maybe in the end.
New Starbucks is a two-way mirror between coffee and despair, a mobius strip where you can while away your days getting people’s names wrong and fussing over weird terms for different beverage sizes.
And maybe it’s important that Starbucks never gets your name right. It’s a challenge. Who are you? Who ARE you? Right now, you don’t even know. You haven’t had your coffee yet. How sick is it that you have substituted zero-calorie and/or too-much-calorie bean concoctions for honest-to-goodness adenosine triphosphate? The emptiness of New Starbucks is not a blank slate upon which to project your personality, but rather a bleak representation of the vacancy behind your personality.
Perhaps the stripping of even the last semblance of character from what was already the most godforsaken cafe chain on the planet was a metaphor. We are experiencing a climate of accelerating international panic. Right-wing totalitarians have taken over the most powerful governments in the world through the disaffected “who gives a shit”-ness of their constituents, proving that the institution of the state has probably been a joke the entire time. World economies, even in the few cases where they seem healthy, are spiralling deeper and deeper into chasmic income inequality. It seems like now more than ever, the global impoverished are faced with a palisade that cannot be scaled without a miracle. More importantly, the biosphere we live in is teetering on the edge of terminal illness. The Amazon is burning. Mother Earth’s lungs are on fire. The ice caps are melting. The oceans are turning to acid.
How lucky we are to get to witness the end of the world.
Flat white, please. Declining? Declining. 12 ounce- 12- what? Oh. Uh, tall.