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.
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