The Horror Of The Airport Perfume Aisle

Amy Shuard as Lady Macbeth, 1960
Amy Shuard as Lady Macbeth, 1960

I’m walking through the airport perfume aisle. Airports are the most racist, classist places on Earth. They’re mini police states, where freedom of movement is violently constrained by where you’re from and how much money you have. The rich and corporate literally sit in first class or business while everyone is lumped together in ‘the economy’. And the perfume aisle distills it all.

Perfume is a French word, a French brand, which is ironic because Paris is historically one of the smelliest places in the world. Even today it remains littered with dog shit, and the stench of brutal colonialism pervades it all. Perfume is the distillation of colonialism because it takes cheap, ‘exotic’, ingredients from all over the world, mixes them with marketing and bullshit, and makes them reappear as ‘French’. Like Belgian chocolate or Italian coffee, it’s all a colonial con. Resources are stripped out of the South, branded in the North, and both the credit and the cash are laundered up and out. Like so much smoke, blown up the asses of us all.

Ambergis from all the whale populations they brutally genocided, sandalwood from the trees they cut, all borne upwards on palanquins by the colored people that do the actual work of colonialism. Colonialism works (still works) like holding a child down on the playground, making them slap themselves with their own hands. The hands around the neck of the South are usually brown with white palms. The true white man remains quite distant from it all, calling Africans corrupt (while laundering their money through London), calling Indians unhygenic (while not washing their own butts), and calling Chinese despotic (while living under completely corrupt and unresponsive governments actively killing the sick and maintaining the highest caged populations in the world). It’s all distilled into heady and ultimately ephemeral ideas and ideologies. Perfume covering the stench of Paris.

As Lady Macbeth said (with more geographic accuracy than modern marketing):

Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!

I digress, but what else do you do in an airport. My children are with my mother. We’re broadly fleeing into the maelstorm. In this liminal space where we’re effectively under arrest between each gate, I just look around.The immigration staff are almost all brown. The people at the coffee shops are brown. They’re all degrees migrants, here by permission of the White Empire, indentured servants serving their time in this shitty clime, coming here for a ‘better life’ only because colonialism has made life so actively worse across the rest of the world. What do you get? All the smells of the nature you used to live in, distilled in a bottle that cost $100. All of this ‘progress’ all of this ‘western civilization’. It’s just the trampling of a flower to experience it. It’s the pinning of a butterfly on a wall. The stuffing of a Dodo. Things would have been better off left alone.

It stinks. That’s what I think in the perfume aisle. And I like perfume. That’s the rub. The Lady Macbeth rub. As Shakespeare wrote: