the ever expanding universe of american banality
Why O'Charleys and Walmart suck
You're right Troll, when you say that there is nothing wrong with an individual choosing to open an O'Charleys (from now on OC) or an individual to choose to patronize an OC. You're probably right too, in noting that a franchise restaurant has a better chance of surviving the Obama anti-small business economy. But i am making arguments on two principal fronts: aesthetics and culture, and local economy.
In the united states, you could be plopped down in any city and be confronted with slabs of road lined with one box restaurant after another: taco bell, McD, long john silvers, longhorn, chilis, OC and all the rest. the familiar sameness feeds into an american psyche of a never ending smorgasbord in the land of plenty where cheap food and goods are our national birthright. the blandness of the offerings and the predictability of them anesthetize the senses in the same way our collective 8 hours of television dulls the mind. I think of franchises (and Wal-Mart) as carpetbaggers, they come into a community and they take money out of the local economy and put very little back into it, while also destroying the unique character and flavor of the community. and it's ugly.
Even if a local businessman opens an OC, he is going to be somewhat constricted by the corporate mandate of menu. They are also going to benefit from big budget advertising in endless repetitive loops: "come put your big american ass in our booth and we'll give you 5000 calories of bread before you even order! yay!" These ads show how little regard the corporate pitchmen have for us. our function is to consume and then, when have have consumed too much, we can take Lipitor! and yes, in a free nation we have every right to choose this soulless path, but Troll, your argument was i wrong to be disgusted by it, and wrong to blame "the people" for their choices having something to do with independent businesses failing.
Meanwhile, as in Fishy's scenario, a local restaurant has more freedom to buy local produce, offer seasonal menus and in general offer something unique and stimulating. These one of a kind establishments are the ultimate in american freedom because every decision that is made by the proprietor is free of a monolithic corporate overlord. But they havent survived. I am questioning a culture that does not see why supporting local is in everyones best interest . there is nothing more conserative than preserving local economies. the less centralization there is, the more freedom and choice there is for individuals. for every job that an OC or walmart offers....the absence of these chains offers greater opportunities for not just jobs, but individual life and spirit sustaining businesses that will develop to meet the community demand. i can, and do, blame "the people" for the short sightedness of not patronizing local businesses.
during the seattle summit, one of the highlights was when Boxer took me and shamy and moi to "Top Pot" a famous doughnut shop. It was a destination, we walked for what seemed miles with wild anticipation of the goodies at the end of the trail. This would not have happened if we were going to say, a dunkin donuts. we can get that anywhere. this was an event because the destination was unique to seattle. OC is not a destination -its always going to be there and so is therefore, not special. That is my problem: the non-specialness of "its always going to be there" and how that attitude is a blight on the american way of life and thought. It breeds indifference and taking abundance for granted which we can not afford at this juncture in history.
The fact that i find europe delightful because of the way each region has its own character based on the environment and/or history does not equal i think america should be like europe politically. but i do think they have some things right: that cheap goods and expediency do not trump authenticity. how is it that in 200 and some change years this nation is a collection of strip malls and jiffy lubes and yes, OC's while european cities have retained their local character for far longer? shouldnt we care about the quality of our experiences at least as much as how cheaply and quickly it can be delivered? because while we are on our way to making a pile of money, or whatever it is that defines american life, we have to fill our time with LIFE. how do you want to live it?
On to Wal-Mart. yes Wal-Mart offers low prices and that is helpful especially in this economy. but in the long run there is serious damage done to the communtiy; and im not even going to cite the fact that they keep the hours of employees under 40 to avoid health benefits while at the same time partnerning with the Center for American Progress to support a law that would legally obligate employers to pay for their employees' health insurance - small businesses that do have full time employees. or that they have bribed their way into to communties where they are not wanted.
my argument is this: once you allow the big box of cheap goods to run every alternative out of business because they cannot compete with the prices, then that big box is now your primary provider of goods. and then you have corporate tyranny. what did you trade for your cheap plastic from china, america? you traded away choice for a kind of serfdom -only the king in this case is a corporation. all that money spent in wal-mart? it leaves the community and goes to sam waltons familys vault. which is fine for them, they built the business. but when local businesses receive money for goods in their shops it is not going to be shipped out of the community, it is going to be spent with other businesses in that same community. The most conservative way of life is to stay as local as possible in business and commerce.
to sum it all up:
Wal-Mart: a single entity that provides for all your needs. what does that remind you of? and how has the acceptance of that arrangement primed the american psyche for exactly the situation we find ourselves in on a far larger scale?