Sunday, October 12, 2014

Labels and such

There are certain words, most notably names of people, businesses, or ideas, that raise the hair of people of a certain ilk. You know what and who they are: buzzwords that people of one political ideology or other use to define all that is wrong with the world. To someone of the right wing ilk, words or phrases such as welfare, communism, tax and spend liberal, or Barack Obama are used to stir up the troops because of their power to get like minded people riled up into a tizzy. To those on the left, the names George W. Bush, the Tea Party, the Koch Brothers, and Monsanto all have the same effect. When those labels fail to do the job, both sides love to conjure up the sina qua non of labels used to describe objectionable opinions and ideas: Hitler and the Nazis.

I've never had much use for labels; for me they are means to over-simplify complicated issues that deserve nuance and thought.

One of those buzzwords that people on at least one side of the political spectrum use to describe all that is wrong about the world, or at least this part of it, is the big box store Walmart.

The Walmart corporation's success is due to the creation of a sophisticated distribution system and maintaining extremely low overhead (including paying its workers what many consider to be less than a reasonable living wage), which enables them to undercut the prices of all the competition. That in addition to the one-stop convenience of being able to get practically anything you want under one roof in a convenient location with ample parking, makes Walmart THE go to store for tens, maybe hundreds of millions of Americans.

This of course comes at the expense of the competition: establishments that have been around for decades if not centuries in traditional shopping areas. Some people see Walmart as the cause for the downfall of  urban downtowns and small town Main Streets all over the country that today are mostly moribund if not dead.

To some, it's purely an example of business as survival of the fittest, in this case a tremendously successful company who does things bigger and better than anybody else deserving to win. Besides they say, Walmart creates jobs for lots of Americans who have the choice not to work there if they find the wages unacceptable.

To others, Walmart represents nothing less than the destruction of the American landscape and our very way of life.

Whichever side you're on, this article from last November's issue of Salon is well worth the read.

I never much liked Walmart, I've always found their stores extremely depressing places to spend time in and found their business practices to be objectionable.

But I've always thought using their name as a label for all that is wrong about America to be a little excessive.

That is until now.

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