Brock Benson | Civil Patriot
My daughter and son-in-law just returned from Disneyworld.
Yeah, you read that right. In the middle of a global pandemic, Disneyworld is wide open. Everyone is masked up, of course, and social distancing is taking place throughout the park, but things are going strong over there. Disney—owner of ABC, ESPN, Touchstone Pictures, Marvel, LucasFilms, and more—is raking in the dough, as always.
They’re also going strong at Amazon. According to USA Today, “Amazon stock is up 30% so far this year.” In fact, Amazon hired 175,000 new workers in 2020. Sounds like a great time to invest, right? For sure, folks are ordering everything they can from the online retailers—household items, clothing, even laundry detergent and dog food.
There’s a similar story going on at WalMart. USA Today Reports, “Walmart sales increase 10% as online buying grew 74% during coronavirus pandemic.” WalMart has been open since day one. Sure, the workers stand behind plexiglass barriers, but otherwise it’s pretty much business as usual, the superstore raking in the big bucks.
Media giants are faring well, as well. Netflix has seen a big boost since the pandemic gripped the nation: “Since shelter at home orders were first announced in the United States, there has been a 72 percent increase in the number of Netflix subscriber profiles that were used to stream video each week.” (npd.com) No big surprise there. With the majority of Americans quarantining and/or working from home, folks are bound to watch more television. Netflix is counting on that.
So is Amazon Prime. And Hulu. (Did I mention Hulu is owned by Disney?)
These big-box stores and media giants are in great shape. We should all be celebrating their tremendous success. . .right?
This story reminds me very much of a movie my wife dragged me to the theater to see years ago—You’ve Got Mail. The film, which starred Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, was based on a 1940 black and white movie titled The Shop Around the Corner.
The basic premise of You’ve Got Mail is this: Big Box store moves into town and puts little, much-loved bookstore out of business. A love-hate relationship ensues between the owners of the two stores. In the end the little shop around the corner loses the fight but the two owners end up in love.
Sounds about right.
We have a love-hate relationship with the big guys right now. We would rather support our little/local stores, but (thanks to lockdowns and quarantine rules) many of them have closed their doors, if not permanently, then at least for now. So, we’re forced to give our money to the very ones who are slowly taking ownership of us. I have to swallow hard when I walk into Walmart or Amazon, but I’m as guilty as the next guy when it comes to giving in to the temptation.
I think it’s time to pause for a moment and re-think this big-box, life-of-ease mentality. In spite of the convenience, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot when we make all of our purchases from them. Do we really want to live in a world where a tiny handful of conglomerates are our only options for food, clothing, entertainment, and the rest? Or do we want to fight harder to help the little shop around the corner survive and thrive?
I, for one, want to yell at Meg Ryan: “Don’t fall for him! You’re selling your soul to the devil!”
But that’s just me.
It’s not enough to say, “Those little shop owners will find other work elsewhere.” Sure they will. They’ll probably end up making deliveries for Amazon. But we’ve got to think beyond that: What if Amazon and WalMart gain all of this control over us and then clamp down? What if Walmart decides you can’t shop in their stores unless you’ve been vaccinated? And what if Amazon won’t hire those former shop owners unless they have proof of a vaccine?
Side note: I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I am a big believer in freedom of choice.
And what about this scenario: If Amazon and WalMart (and a handful of other grocers) are our only options for food, what happens when they randomly decide to raise their prices or refuse to offer service to people who don’t go along with the political narrative of the day? (Yeah, I think about things like this.) If there’s little or no competition we’ll be forced to do whatever they say in order to feed our families. That’s a scary thought.
I say it’s time to think bigger than the big box stores. If we’re really expanding our vision, we’ll be thinking of the little guys. For more ideas on how to support them, check out Starving David, Feeding Goliath.
Bread for myself is a material question. Bread for my neighbour is a spiritual one.
– Nicholas Berdyaev