April 2009

All Fools Month

By Galen Larson

April Fool’s Day is not enough. I propose to dedicate the whole month of April as All Fools Month to commemorate the American consumer.

I can’t imagine another species that would revel more in being played for a fool. When training any animal, you start slow, one trick at a time. That’s what the corporations have done to us.

First we gave up our day of rest for stores and their employees, Sundays. That was the first foolish thing the consumer consented to. Oh, sure, some people rejoiced: whatever we couldn’t remember to buy on Saturday, we could now get on Sunday. One more chance to splurge! We can even buy liquor on Sundays — hurray!

Then our holidays were corrupted and conscripted by capitalism. “Peace on earth, good will toward men” turned into “spend, spend, spend.” Jesus tried to save us from the moneychangers and greedy, and now our supposedly holiest day, his birthday, has been turned into a celebration of such greed. Now all of our days of commemoration, sorrow and patriotism have been taken over and turned into holidays for buying mattresses, cars and trinkets and wandering through malls — with a guilt trip placed on us if we don’t participate. The original meanings of these days has been lost forever.

What else have we lost through our rampant lust for cheap goods? Well, the Mom and Pop stores, good service, local products, things like that.

I remember a conversation I heard around a pitcher of suds. The younger folks were extolling the convenience of the behemoth big-box stores when an older person spoke up and said, in his younger days, his mother just phoned the butcher, grocer, pharmacy and hardware store and placed her order — and it was delivered to her door. She just said “charge it” and there was no interest, no credit report, no signature needed. The delivery man collected at the end of the month. A great system. It employed local people, it required little if any long-distance trucking, the products were American-made with quality and pride. If one did purchase a foreign product it was made by craftsmen, not child labor. Italian shoes, suits from Scottish wool, furniture from France and England, made with class and designed to last a lifetime.

Well, we gave that up in favor of the convenience stores and warehouse clubs and fast-food joints and we’re sure better off, aren’t we?

What about service stations? We just had to have cheaper gas, even if it was only a couple of pennies cheaper than the other guy’s. So the service stations, to become competitive, had to drop the “service” part and turn into gas stations only. No more window-cleaning, tire-pressure checks, oil checks and catching up on local gossip. At most stations now you never even have to talk to another person. You pay at the pump with your credit card. Wonder how long it will be before they just scan our fingerprint and suck the money directly out of our checking account?

Next went the clothing stores and the rest of the small entrepreneurs that made downtowns vital. They all had to flock to malls or go out of business. No more tailors or seamstresses; after all, our clothes are so cheap now (made by women and kids in foreign sweatshops) that there isn’t any point in mending them. Just throw them away and buy new ones! Good move for corporations, foolish for consumers!

We have become a throwaway nation, swimming in junk. We rent storage units to store the things we don’t need but can’t bear to part with. Then we have room to rush out and buy more. The soft tones of common sense are never heard above the shouts of greed.

Now to our favorite corporation, Wal-Mart. We sacrified over 100,000 of our young, not to mention legions of wounded, fighting the Chinese and communism. But thanks to Sam Walton and his heirs, we have built China into our largest debt-holder. And, of course, for the small retailers hanging on by their teeth, there is no tax relief, but for the Wal-Marts and other mega-stores there are huge tax benefits granted by the town fathers.

We “save money” by buying inferior merchandise and in turn get lower wages for our citizens and drive American manufacturers overseas. What a bargain!

Last but not least, the mega-banks, where you are not known by face or name, where you must fill out a ream of paper to get a small loan with Mafiatype usury interest rates. People have gone to prison for charging 30 percent interest, but our banks and credit-card companies aren’t much better.

Who’s at fault? Go look in the mirror.

If you disagree, feel free to express yourself in the Free Press. Otherwise, I will continue to propose that the month of April be declared All Fools Month, in honor of the American consumer.

Galen Larson writes from Montezuma County, Colo.

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