I needed to get my fiancé's ring repaired and resized yesterday. I looked on Yelp for some recommendations on where I might take my business. A quick search revealed a small locally owned shop not far from my home.
I was greeted warmly by the gentleman at the counter. He was the owner. “How ya doing?” he asked. “I'm getting married, that's how I'm doing!” He looked at the ring and summoned his repair guy to come take a look. “We'll have this thing in perfect shape for your big day, sir.”
Leaving the store, it hit me. Did I just patronize the last mom and pop business on this street? I look around. Chains, as far as the eye can see. Chains, chains, chains, the same stores we see in Everytown, USA; McDonald's, Home Depot, Michaels, Walmart, Chevron.
I grumbled to the fiancé last night that it felt like the middle class has no stake in their future anymore. I complained we are all servants for mega global corporations who give us a meager paycheck in return for doing their bidding. “Would you like a rewards card today, sir?” they say with faux sincerity. No, thanks – I've already had my personal data mined by the rest of the world's corporations, I'm good.
“We are a society of lame corporate uniforms and name tags!” I moaned. “Millions of Americans go to work every day and put on a stupid polo shirt and a name tag. We don't go to work at our neighbor's store. We don't have a part-time gig at a friend's shop. We report for duty at Globalcorp's megabox in the suburbs and submit to the soul-crushing humility that comes with not being a person, but by being an extension of a transnational corporate machine. We work for moronic store and shift managers who pass the company messages down to us. “Now remember to ask each customer if they want a scratch-n-win game card…” You know what? You can take that scratch and win BS and put it in a nice big can of shut the f up. And don't even get me started about Big Food!”
The fiancé nodded in acknowledgement, but I realized she was the person representing the entire universe; it wasn't fair to make her hear any more.
Today I decided to look and see if my perception had any truth to it.
I looked at the website for the US Chamber of Commerce. Lovers of corporate greed love this organization, and so do the mammoth corporations who the CoC lobby for. Their “Free Enterprise” microsite reported “entrepreneurship in this country is at the highest level in more than a decade.” Hmm.
My suspicions were bolstered when I read this article from the RT network, where they reported “As a percentage of domestic workers, self-employed Americans dropped from 25 percent to only 7 percent between 1950 and 2013. ‘We can attribute this trend to the rise of global Corporate America and government employment,' (financial writer Charles Hugh) Smith wrote last month on his economy website (citing numbers from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics). “The workforce expanded, and relatively more people became employees of corporations or the government than became self-employed.”
This is mostly our fault, you know. These gigantic corporations open monstrosities in the suburbs and we collectively jam their doors, silently begging the universe to stop us before we shop again. We go to these retail godzillas because we all want 47 cent televisions made by god-knows-who in god-knows-where. The mega stores are successful because we have made a choice, We do not want to patronize a mom and pop. We want what we want, we want it now, and if it's not too much trouble, can we please have pizza and soda food courts in every location?
Millions of Americans put on a name tag every day, and work against our own self-interest. The corporations who control us have unrestrained and unlimited power, resources and control. Their spokesholes have the audacity to claim “our associates enjoy salaries and benefits that are competitive in today's economy…blahblah.” Yes, that's likely true. One mega box pays their employees crap, and so does their neighbor in the strip mall.
We have chosen our path, and we choose to be dependent on monstercorp's benevolence. We have to work to survive. We have to work to meet our obligations and to feed our kids. Our career choices have plummeted to wearing the uniform of one super-sized chain, or the other.
Oh by the way, are you aware that the corporations want to be thought of as “people”?
Have I been spotted inside a superstore? Yes, I have – many times. There's no alternative 80% of the time. Target can be mildly fun from time to time; it's not like the stores are completely horrid. And survival of the fittest requires that the better business model deserves to win. I'm violently against any liberal-ish equality of outcome theory, but equality of opportunity, that level playing field, is an ever-growing impossibility. The concept is falsely promoted by these SOB's who use keywords like “freedom” and “liberty.” It's code for “protection of the wealth and power of the status quo”.
We asked for it, we supported it, and now we are getting it, but good. Take the off-ramp from any major highway across the country, and prepare to be greeted by the same signs, from Maine to Minnesota to California.
The man who is fixing my future wife's ring lives in my community. I'm thankful for him, and I hope he gets to stay there for a long time.
I fear the next time I purchase a little jewel for my bride, I might have to swallow the frightening reality that Every Kiss Begins With Kay, whether I like it or not.