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Opinion

Bad news for Jeff Bezos is good news for people-focused business

Bo Burnham and Jeff Bezos – Amazon isn’t going anywhere, but people are discovering the value of connecting with others

If there’s one TV special that should serve as a testament to the curious period of history that was lockdown – and please, there’s no need for more than one – it’s Bo Burnham’s Inside. A homemade, tragicomic collection of songs and self-shot videos, Inside captures a painfully accurate sense of the malaise, despair, laugh-or-you’ll-weep mood that was much of 2020 and 2021.

The most streamed song from the show is about “CEO, entrepreneur, born in 1964, Jeffrey, Jeffrey Bezos.”

Burnham must find Jeff Bezos – or the sound of his name – fascinating. Outtakes from Inside were recently released, taking the tally of ditties inspired by the billionaire businessman to four, each dipping into a different musical genre. 

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One of these new takes is a simple elegiac choral chanting of his name, a choral celebration/laceration of a man who, the treatment made me think, has a lot in common with gods of old.

He has untold riches, is omnipotent. If you want something in your life, Amazon is in prime position to provide. But as much as society is fascinated by super wealthy and all-powerful individuals, these figures are even more fascinated by us.

Bezos knows a lot more about me than I do about him. He isn’t only representative of our times but
our selves. 

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My Amazon account keeps a record of every purchase I’ve made. Browsing back the years sees my life reflected by products I bought. There’s first Christmas presents for my baby nieces, university books, absolutely completely useless caffeine shampoo.

Prime Video knows I really want to watch every James Bond film.

Records go back to the moment I first dipped my toe into buying something virtually. In 2001 I bought a study guide to Heart of Darkness (Wikipedia was only founded in January that year) and a CD – Spaced Out: The Very Best of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner.

I’d need a few more pages to properly pay tribute to that album. It contains arguably the definitive version of It Was a Very Good Year. Shatner expertly embodies a 37-year-old actor pretending to be a winsome 17-year-old, then a cocky 21-year-old and somebody who thinks the autumn of their years happened at 35.

If only he’d known what a very good year he’d have when he was 90. Not only did Shatner have the joy of being interviewed by yours truly last summer, weeks later he was blasted boldly to the edge of space by the guy with billions to burn on his Blue Origin project, Jeffrey Bezos.

It’s a massive stretch but I’ll say it anyway. Providing me a platform to buy a CD of Captain Kirk singing – giving people access to anything they wanted to buy, stuff not necessarily available on their local high street – is what launched Amazon on their course to world domination.

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But 2022 has not been a very good year for Bezos. So far he’s lost $59.3 billion (£47.5bn) as Amazon shares sink. Imagine losing that much money in six months. Then imagine not being that bothered because you still have $133bn (£106.5bn) left.

As we no longer need home deliveries for everything, people are going back out on the streets. Chain stores have suffered, but independent retailers are thriving. People are discovering the value of social enterprises, of which The Big Issue is one. The only person who gets rich when you buy this magazine (depending on how many copies you buy) is the vendor you buy it from.

And as much as every flipping word you read inside is fantastic, it’s the human interaction with the vendor that often seals the deal.

Bezos knew it too. It’s connection and taking an interest in others where true value lies.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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