Opening Thoughts by Peter Moore
Local is Life Force.
Driving south on I-5 one recent Saturday morning, I couldn’t miss the big GRAND OPENING across the freeway. WOW, there it was, a new Walmart store, extending for what seemed an acre over recently paved farmlands. What a nightmare. Like some hideous slow spreading contagion, the store’s vast parking lot extruded a line of vehicles out along the freeway frontage road, across the freeway overpass, down the opposite off-ramp and finally, dangerously, along the westside shoulder of I-5 itself. I had to veer to the middle lane to find safety at 65 mph. Netted in the gridlock were hundreds of thwarted shoppers who, having driven miles (many in gas-guzzling SUV’s) to get the good deals, now inched along in the heat just a tantalizing two hundred yards away from the store. A few of the more determined shoppers zoomed up the extreme shoulder of the packed one-lane off-ramp, trying to get to the front of the line.
What a way to spend a Saturday. “Hey, let’s pack up the kids and go to the new Walmart! Get some good deals! It’s only an hour away!”
What is it, this need to get the cheapest deal? And how does saving a few bucks on brooms or detergent justify the extra expense of driving all those extra miles? Maybe it’s the event atmosphere itself, with everybody packed into those stuffy aisles, shoulder to shoulder, buying more stuff. Maybe it’s about winning—like “I saved the most money, so I WIN!” Maybe it’s a club. Sam’s club.
Whatever it is, it’s insane.
For the corporations, it’s about profit. Corporations like Walmart practice what Rome perfected 2000 years ago. They send the money out of the local community, every day, back to corporate headquarters. Anything above the minimum wages paid to employees and the maintenance costs for the local plant is called profit and off it goes to build the wealth empire of a few fortunate men. What is happening here is the slow economic strangulation of our local community—watch it happen as the money flows out. This is true of the “Big Box” retail stores like Walmart, Target, Borders, you name it, and it is true of every Gannett newspaper or Clear Channel radio station in all those cities & towns across the country. It’s true of all non-local business.
Meanwhile our communities curtail services. School days and library hours are cut back. Social infrastructure goes unimproved. What used to be called the “commonwealth” (wealth held in common by all) is constricted.
As I drove past, I realized how alien all of this has become to me. I wouldn’t feel good going into that “Big Box” and spending my dollars there. In fact, I’d feel bad, sullied by allowing myself to be an accomplice in a system that doesn’t value people. I know too much about how those low prices are achieved. It’s ugly and inhumane. Besides, I don’t want any more STUFF.
Buying from locally owned businesses is the answer and the antidote to this ultimately destructive economic practice. Even if I’m paying a little more (and that isn’t always the case), I’d rather have my money support local families, rather than the Emperors of Wealth, wherever they may live. I have found this so much more satisfying than the save-a-few-pennies mentality that allows these Big Box stores to thrive. I like knowing the names of local business owners, and that they know mine. These interactions leave me feeling good. Walmart tries to mimic this neighborly rapport by paying a “greeter” to welcome you to their store, but this mimicry is really a mockery of neighborliness.
Cultural creativity is about witnessing and honoring all the relationships. We find wholeness through holistic practice rather than profit production & preservation. We are practicing to create the world in the image of our own soul group. Every economic activity is practice to create the world we want to live in.
Buy local, buy organic, keep your freedom by resisting the pretty propaganda.
Whew, ok, got that off my chest, I feel better.
I invite you to read through the articles in this summer issue for a wide range of good writing on good subjects.
Peter Moore, editor, Alternatives Magazine
Alternatives . . . subverting the dominant paradigm one relationship at a time.