Friday, March 26, 2010

Documentary

This is not about waltzing polar bears! I watched the documentary The High Cost of Low Price today and got the kind of upset one gets when one's face is smeared with something rotten and sickening. The documentary is about the greed of Wal-Mart, not only how it destroys small towns' main street stores but it's total disregard for its employees, it's cynical reliance on state welfare systems to take care of it's underpaid U.S. employees and it's horrible, slave labor production practices in China, Honduras and Bangladesh. There is so much corruption in the system of Wal-Mart that anyone who sees the movie cannot feel like an ethical person if s/he patronizes the stores ever again.

I have heard hints of this, read bits in newspapers, but never put the whole story together before. The documentary, like so many others, treated its audience like a punching bag, blow after blow, almost too much to absorb. I felt totally bloody and flat out on my back by the time it was over. Maybe repetitiousness is necessary for such a subject because so many have been lulled by the repetitiousness of the cheery ads that make it seem a wonderful company. Yes, many items do cost less at Wal-Mart. If you must save pennies maybe you DO want, even need, to shop at Wal-Mart. But for those who have the financial choice of paying a bit more there is no question about what you will do if you have an ounce of scruples.

As one black minister in the film said, "they practice plantation democracy." A wonderful, resonate metaphor. American capitalism has never been honest, has never been without a thick overlay of greed. Fortunately many communities have stood up to Wal-Mart, many class action suits have been filed, a variety of environmental suits have been won. IS Wal-Mart so big it's beyond the law? It seems to think so. What about the steel companies, the oil companies, the drug companies, Wall Street? "Do we need to know about this?" said a woman with whom I walked to the parking lot. She felt as battered and bruised as I did. "Yes," I said. "We need to know." Beyond that I do not have an answer.

3 comments :

Laura said...

Hi, I stop by your blog occasionally and enjoy reading it. I have been appalled by Walmart for several years now and don't shop there ever. I shop at two smaller, locally owned grocery stores, where prices are actually cheaper if you shop their specials and have one of their scanned cards--lots of times the specials are buy one, get one free, so a little planning and extra storage helps! Most of Walmart's meat comes from China or Mexico, yuck! I won't see this documentary, as I'll just get myself even more upset with the "Walmart Mentality" that has taken over this country!

MaryContrary said...

We have reduced our shopping at Wal-Mart and I can count on one hand how many times we have been there in the last 3 years. When we do go there we are forced to because what we need we couldn't find anywhere else locally unless at another national chain store (Kmart, Target, etc.) Experience has taught us that though the prices are cheap the goods are cheaper. The local grocery and farm markets provide much better quality and we are willing to spend a bit more for it.

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