Despite a fairly large number of attempts to critique, protest Wal Mart's impact on small towns, as well as the notorious suppression of those who are trying to unionize its workers, Wal Mart remains undaunted as one of the worst big box operators on Earth, in all kinds of categories. It's easily the pariah and inspiration of all kinds of current anxieties regarding predatory capitalism.
Just this week, beyond reports of shopping riots, various strange events on its premises related to the recent insanity regarding Black Friday, Ivy League students have been protesting the retail giant's bullying moves moves to cut into business near college campuses.
Just what is it about this company? Well, a few year's back, I did a study at one of its craters of operational behavior. The location was Washington, Iowa, where both a Super Wal Mart and a giant distribution center was located nearby. Here is what I observed ...
You hear them gun up. They are like tanks gassing for battle. Just as the sun rises. You are at the Wal Mart distribution center in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, and the not-so-tiny army is just getting ready for the pusch.
You want to salute, but a tall, highly distinguished looking, slightly limping, downright admiralesque truck driver is watching you, watching him, and that already, as the sun continues to climb, makes the perfectly "normal," well, perfectly "paranormal." The distribution center features a huge complex, maybe four or five football fields long, with vast numbers of trucks in the back, enclosed by a barbed wire fence. Activity is continuous after the sun rises. It is systematic. Ghosty, with few souls to be actually seen. Downright robotic.
But you are simple folk. Practically human. Actually somewhat happy. Your plan for the day is to buy a compass at the Wal Mart nearby, and if it wasn't for the blazing orb in the bright orange in the circus animal clouds, you'd never be able to tell that the Mt. Pleasant Super Center is directly east. However, you do know this: If the great cities of the earth are 24-hour-a-day hotspots, your friendly neighborhood Wal Mart burns just as brightly in the spangles still gleaming, the stars brightly steaming, and so on .... With retirees at the door. Half the county is employed there, at the Super Center, actually. The other half? Most likely running in and out of the Super Center in a kind of wild-eyed state of panic.
The panic is for going in, quite truthfully. The release can be determined, the very sense of a short-term satisfaction, maybe only as good as the car ride home, in the trail of candy wrappers, soda cans, plastic pieces of all kinds of things, that stream, chaotically, along a nearby access road bordered on both sides by fields of corn grown for ethynol.
The front of the Super Center big box store is more palatable to the eye. The front is decorated with the words "Always" in a kind of cursive, red, giant type, and "low prices," half as large, directly below: reading, thus "Always low prices." But above is not always as so below, so when it comes to the medium being the message in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, you really only know one true thing: Something is quite FUBAR here. Because, for one thing, if you check the prices in the surrounding small towns, prices are far lower, just to compete and ... maybe, just maybe, even survive.
Meanwhile, over the technologically zombiefied distribution center, the angry sun continues to rise in the east and the trucks continue to gun up and line out for invasion and the people, one out of seven in America now living in poverty, continue to get, well, hungrier, angrier, more anxious, more in panic. Toward the north (one supposes, since we are still sans a compass), the trucks slowly move out in a parade of equally metered marches to thy mind in a military mode.
The Wal Mart trucks, loaded up with every conceivable kind of petroleum- or corporation corn-seed-based product, are streaming out in a viral march into every demographically correct corner of middle America. Humming onward sweetly. Moving not-so-discretely. In perfect echelons of control. One might consider how each truck driver might be as equally automated as the consumers they are targeting now.
However, as those consumers line in and out, one is more easily led to understand quite the opposite. People who work at Wal Mart are completely varied human beings, with their own tastes, flavors, beliefs and so on ... So before you go on categorizing the consumers of middle earth as being a race of Lilliputians gone completely insane, let's set ourselves in proper motion. Let's ground ourselves. Let's first seek to maintain a proper moral compass. Let's just do that first. As the sun rises. Before it sets.
One handy way to do just that is to take a closer look at what is happening within the concentric circles of what is happening, even as you read this, in other small towns in southeastern Iowa. In places like Morning Sun, for example. Maybe 30 miles away as the crow flies. In Morning Sun, you will find, the situation downtown is dismal. The whole place could be bought up now with Monopoly money. The only storefronts or commercial retail spaces left standing look burned out, bombed out, forgotten, dead, de-neighborized, closed for the rest of steaming eternity under the angry sun.
O sure, there might be, in any one of these surrounding towns, the occasional shop keeper left standing, who will greet you like Daffy Duck, waving his finger. He wags. He complains. He dreams of moving getting out his business, entirely. If not for the few good folks who come in to shop locally, he'd be in Bermuda by now. Since the finger wagging is a universal sign indicating the common small-town accusal, meaning, "Shame on you," each of these towns on most days would be classified better as ghost towns.
"Shame for all who shop at Wal Mart," they might say. "Shame on all of you who drive out of their communities, burning all of that gas, burning all of that time and money, to go out of their way to destroy the very towns they live in. Shame on all of you, far worse criminals than the little thieves who sit in their tiny small town cop jail cells, who go all of that way to buy all of that foreign-made crap, when they can buy some of my crap, much of it frequently locally produced, that they could buy instead."
But holy Ronald Reagan, sweet finger-flipping Jesus, as everyone must not know, as all wild-eyed Wal Mart shoppers do not feel or deny or fail to understand, they know not what they do. They know not that they are citizen soldiers as well for the zombied technological armies of the corporately sponsored seige against the American dream. They can't even see how they are bleeding their own communities dry. They do not know that, without their moral compass; hell they can scarecely listen or even be told, how the Wal Mart army is a big bluesy vampire sucking their very vitals, their lifestyles, their values, completely dry.
So go ahead, buy your plastic, Chinese-made compass at Wal Mart. Notice how it breaks easily. It will happen ... someday soon. You can always buy another one, and another, and another ... and if you have enough money, in great bulky bulks at Sam's Club, too ... all soon to be built on the surface of the moon.