Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Orwell's full stomach

I guess you could say I live in a community that is rich enough to care about things that those less affluent do not have the luxury to care about. As George Orwell once pointed out more or less, there is no such thing as a philosopher with an empty stomach.

My community, for example, was like a lot of other communities in the near distance that expressed their concerns when "big box" stores tried to find a footing. There was opposition to such stores as Wal-Mart and Lowe's and the like and part of the argument was that it would suck the life out of local downtown businesses ... and Main Street would be filled with metaphorical tumble weed.

Sure enough, Main Street lost its hardware store and its department store. The pharmacy's space was cut in half. Each was replaced by upscale art stores, pinch pottery and other stores sporting pricey frills, the accents to an affluent lifestyle. But it was not just the big box stores that eviscerated things. There was also the internet and its come-hither prices.

Our community is fortunate to have a college as what might be called its General Motors (before that collapsed) -- an economic engine that helped the community sidestep too much tumbleweed.

But today, at the Wal-Mart where I buy staples, I noticed again the number of Saabs, Volvos, Lexuses, Range Rovers and other accent vehicles crowded in among less upscale Fords and Chevys.

Suddenly, as it seems, big box stores are not so bad after all. In hard times more people want to save the same pennies and nickels and dimes that the less affluent were trying to save all along.

A front-page article in the local newspaper today says that the state legislature is pushing through a bill to allow casinos in the state -- something that has been bitterly opposed in the past. All the fears of an overtaxed infrastructure, an overworked police department, over-crowded schools, fiscal irresponsibility ... all that seems to have been put on the back burner in favor of the jobs that beckon people hoping to spend what they probably don't have to spend.

Funny how a principled and virtuous stand can be affected by Orwell's empty stomach or the fear thereof. I'm not faulting it or calling it out -- just noticing what it might be worth noticing in the first place.

I like caring people. I would way rather live among such people than among those who care little or nothing for the next person or the environment or whatever. But I do think those who congratulate themselves for their caring might want to take another look ... how much is caring, how much is posturing and how much is just a full stomach with too much time on its hands.

1 comment:

  1. They just finished a grocery section addition to the Walmart a couple of miles from our house and I shopped there yesterday for the first time. I had a eye out for the sort of customers in the store but didn't notice any difference from the usual. No fancy cars in the parking lot also, and I saw a lot of them walking to the store from the far side of the lot.

    It did seem to be a little less expensive than the Vons a few doors down where I usually go. The purse strings are get'n tighter though with unemployment running out, so every penny counts, now.

    There's been some interesting articles lately about Walmart in the Atlantic... which makes me feel better about shop'n there.