Disclaimer: Articles on this website are written from the perspectives of various Localists, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Local Matters. Our contributors come from a wide array of varying political backgrounds, and we believe that cooperation across the political spectrum is essential.
We currently live in a market world, which has established a system that supports the growth of supermarkets, large scale shopping malls and online e-commerce, with a complete disregard for what shopping historically was to Europe, and indeed to much of the world. Shopping was, until recent years, a social activity. in remote market towns or rural villages, this can still be seen very clearly.
I grew up on the coast of East Anglia, far from any supermarket. The local shop was run by local people; I knew their names very well and they were deeply entwined with the social fabric of our small town. the money that we put into the local businesses enriched local life. Today our local stores are too often smaller branches of some large scale chain. A franchise such as ‘Go Local’ mocks local life with its very name, while it slowly colonises our streets. These large chains skim their profit off the top, and far away in a city meeting room, they offer themselves inordinate salaries for a job they perceive to be ‘well done’, but these were funds formerly delivered to the common good of the people within the community Of the business.
On that note, the supermarket is a particularly difficult adversary as it is all too convenient in its vast range of stock in a small space. There is a very real and very dark price which comes with this. We must not look back far to see the multitude of bankruptcies of local shops and trades. We have taken on a deeply consumerist mindset at the expense of our culture. After all, why pay someone more in East Anglia (our ancient farming heartland) to grow wheat when we can import it from Australia? Why pay the English fisherman to fillet when we can do it cheaper by first sending our fish to China only to be sent back around the world to our freezers? We have ended up as strangers shopping amongst other strangers, only to pay our bill to a stranger and remain strangers after the transaction. This is something that was previously only normal to those who were travelling. We then endlessly consume all evening long whilst consuming our entertainment systems.
The supermarket is taking over your home and leaving you subject to its cold calculations on fulfilling your needs as if you were a hamster. This way of life has led to such a large scale of imports, which causes us to struggle in times of crisis. But even in times of financial stability, farming or fishing is now a highly unstable career choice. I personally know a great many friends who have sadly not followed in their fathers’ footsteps and run the family farm. The steadfast farmer of today has provided for their family but commonly suggests that their children find other work and study at universities far away. Farming and local shops were intrinsically linked in a symbiosis: their business and personal relationship fostered the backbone for social cohesion in local areas.
This communal erosion is not due to the choices of citizens to avoid local shops in a free market, but market forces beyond citizens’ control. The gleefully skilful advertising industry sees us no longer as citizens, but simply as consumers. To local shops, we were friends, clients, valued customers. The same forces that cause this disintegration will argue that, as consumers, we do have a choice, but this ultra-American argument is only true if you ignore the large scale changes to peoples’ lives, forcing them to work long hours, with two working parents in one household, who are often reminded they are in need of 24-hour convenience. Human weaknesses and susceptibility, the non-political nature of many of us living our day to day lives, has been prayed upon by sprawling conglomerates on a mass scale. The channels of communication are oversaturated with competitive multi-million dollar messages, with instructions to purchase ‘this’ over ‘that’. All while the social, environmental and human consequences are overlooked and never brought into focus.