Britain used to be known as a nation of shopkeepers. This week's outcry over A4e and the government's "work experience" scheme has revealed it is now a nation of shelf-stackers.
As the economy and thus public services contract into their mossy shell, the supermarkets are left to crawl unchallenged across the land like fearsome millipedes in 100 hobnailed boots. While under Labour we all worked for the council as outreach professionals, we now all work for Morrisons.
Any villager brave enough to defy the march of the Big Four is an enemy to "job creation". Any city councillor to oppose new developments is an opponent to regeneration.
Millions of people's lives now consist of a day's work bleeping barcodes, followed by a trip to Asda to spend their meagre wages on frozen pizza and sink unblocker.
The Waitrose workers go to Sainsbury's for their shopping. The Sainsbury's workers go to Tesco, the Asda workers go to Farmfoods. God knows where the Poundland workers get their groceries.
It's clear that for many, the supermarkets have greater influence on their lives than the mighty, but shrinking, "state".
When people are out of work, with shaky CVs and no chance of a job, the Government and its friends and their subcontracted friends and their friends of friends send them to stack shelves in Asda and Poundland. For some, it is the first work experience they have had.
Opponents of the Welfare-to-Work type schemes being operated have suggested that shelf-stacking is humiliating, belittling.
Anyone complaining about shelf-stacking has clearly never worked a 10-hour shift:
1. In an insurer's post-room tearing up little bits of paper for no apparent reason.
2. Sticking free shampoo samples on page 27 of Cosmopolitan magazine.
3. Watching widgets fly from a machine.
4. Watching photocopiers print out entire books in triplicate.
5. Operating an industrial dishwasher at a private equity-owned leisure centre.
These sort of jobs only reflect the reality of most people's work situation. Only a slim slice of society has challenging, interesting, rewarding well-paid jobs. The vast majority of 'careers' are boring, repetitive, poorly paid, but vital to the functioning of everything. That is why so many graduates work in call-centres. Someone's gotta shovel the proverbial. We can't get an Indian call centre to bleep out your hummus (although, God knows they've tried to get a machine to bleep out mine - "Unexpected pair of naked arse-cheeks in the bagging area" etc)