Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Wal-Mart Kool-aid

To see The Who. To see the Rolling Stones. To get a deal on DVDs. All stupid reasons to kill. And nobody makes that choice. But you push because the person in front of you is moving and you're sure it's not fast enough. And you have no idea that you're all pushing against one person. That you're pushing 4 people whose feet are about to step on a neck. You don't know. And so people die.

But mobs are not responsible for logistics. They can't be so they shouldn't be. They trust that someone else has it all figured out. Someone who has worked their way to the top of the Wal-Mart morning shift.

The stupidest thing about all this is that in our nation full of mindless action, people are in such a rush to go out and spend more money than we have to. Please let me spend. Please. That stupidity is the individual's responsibility. The material gotten in exchange becomes the only measure of success. Material that usually isn't wanted, isn't requested, isn't kept, certainly isn't needed.

My wife likes to defend a lot of her purchases by saying that without them she wouldn't have gotten the great deal. And when I protest against what is valued by that logic she hears me and understands me. She really does. Because we respect and admire each other. And we both think about our values and the actions they lead to.

But society doesn't listen. And mobs eventually act like the stupidest person in the lot. We're sick.


The Ridger, FCD said...

"But you push because the person in front of you is moving and you're sure it's not fast enough."

Or because the people behind you are pushing you (because they don't want to miss out) and you're afraid to fall...

Still a stupid reason to kill.

Casey said...

True, Ridger, but not pushing the person in front of you because you're not afraid to die would be martyriffic.

This is a depressing story, isn't it? I think I'm more upset by the fact that there hardly seems to exist a "counter-culture" in America anymore. It's only the poorest of our poor and a few tight-pursed precautionists who aren't involved in the get-spend cycle.

Lately I've been watching all of these Matthew Perry romantic comedies (I recommend Numb if you want to see a movie about me) where Perry's character starts out unhappy and playing by the rules and then finds true happiness (i.e., love) by quitting the rat race. I'm not ashamed to say that this narrative really appeals to me, and really makes my "heart" twitter like it's supposed to.

But then I turn to Gretchen and say, "Let's quit academia and go open up a booth at the Charleston market selling knick-knacks." And she gives me the evil eye...

Or I'm reminded of my freshmen (and many of my peers in graduate school) who read Thoreau and finally decided, "Yeah, yeah yeah... 'simplify' sounds good on paper -- but what I really want is one of those colorful and slim iPods."

So I'm still playing by the rules, like all the other Wal-Mart shoppers.