How to Make (Insert Name of Your Country Here) Great Again
My local butcher, from his facebook page
The world I want to live in has markets instead of supermarkets, and little local stores and cafes where you can buy everything you need within walking distance of your house. I want to buy beautiful and interesting things made by artists and crafters. I want to be able to stop by and see the people building my furniture and making my bread. I want to have relationships with the people who make my food, and chat with the old ladies of the neighbourhood in the post office and meet friends at the greengrocers.
I am blessed to live in a neighbourhood where all these things are possible. I can and do shop locally and by the choices that I make about where to spend my dollars on a weekly basis, I am aiming to make my country great again, a place where neighbourhoods provide jobs that are also meaningful work and we all have safe, liveable communities.
I would like to be able to say that I never venture into the giant, ugly dens of iniquity that house the mega corporations of death, destruction and despair, but that would be a rank lie. Damn, those supermarkets are convenient! They stock everything under one enormous and extremely ugly roof. It's cheap. It's there. But it is evil incarnate. They look so innocuous. They will sell you wholesome things that you need like apples and bread and socks. But don't be fooled. They exist to make enormous profits for their owners and shareholders. That is their only mandate. And if you live in Australia it is very difficult indeed to avoid spending your dollars at one of the two major supermarkets, Coles and Woolworths, or at one of their many subsidiaries - Target, Kmart, Myer, Big W, Bunnings, Dan Murphy's, Liquorland, Officeworks. In fact, there would be many Australians who rarely shop anywhere but at one of these stores.
So why is this a problem? Again, these major publicly listed companies exist to make a profit. They are not investing in local products, they are hunting out the cheapest products, and driving down prices at the farm gate to win more market share with cheaper prices for their customers. Farmers are being forced off the land because there comes a point where you can't produce an apple or a celery stick any cheaper.
There are numerous stories of nefarious deals when one of the big chains arrives in town - local hardware stores forced out of business when Bunnings signs exclusive agreements to prevent suppliers selling to the locals. "Brand bombing" when more big chain retail stores are opened than can be sustained by the local population - once the local opposition has closed its doors, the big retailer closes all but one of its stores as well, and that is the end of any alternative shopping experience in town..
And yes, there should be some serious government regulation to prevent this, but honestly, we have done it to ourselves. We have let Coles and Woolworths take over our country and turn it into a giant, dreary suburb where everything is the same. Where is the joy and interest of small family businesses? Where is the fun of tiny quirky shops with interesting jobs for our teenagers? Where are the fair prices that will keep farmers on the land? It's up to us to keep our local shops open and our farmers' markets running. An enormous diversity of small business gives millions of people a chance to live their own dream and make a dignified living with meaningful work. That is a really good place to start to make any country a great place to live..
So this is my challenge to myself. Less convenience, more adventure, colour, interest and good conversation in my local shops. Which means I need to pop out now to walk the dog and buy some bacon before the butcher's shop shuts..