Sunday, January 11, 2009

Relationship Troubles

In a comment on my post about imagined relationships with corporate logos, theczech left a comment that I feel the need to expand upon:

In the suburban Midwest, where I am from, we are trained in the ways you describe. As a matter of fact, we have little choice but to familiarize and accustom our tastes to national chains, as little else dots the consumer's landscape. In many situations, we literally do not have the choice to patronize a non-corporate business.

We come to think of this as right and normal, and to feel uncomfortable with a mom-and-pop store, a family-run restaurant that isn't a national franchise, a locally-run, quirky, fair-trade alternative. The sales associates don't have a uniform! We don't recognize all the menu items! Sometimes the store is closed for a family function!

There are entire cities choked with chains cropping up like weeds in every strip mall. How can the people who live in cities like this be otherwise than completely subservient to the corporations that dominate their communities? There is no cultural space in such cities that is not dominated by logos and advertisements. Eventually, the culture there becomes defined by these things, and people signal their allegiances or their individuality completely through brand choices.

In cases such as the one she describes, we begin to see a pattern of corporate action to create a world where people feel they need these brands for self-identification. In the end (and I probably should have made that more clear in the previous post) I put the responsibility for this situation squarely on the shoulders of corporate entities who care for nothing more than profits. That is not to say that individuals don't have a responsibility to themselves to fight this indoctrination, but in many places and cases, there is very little in the way of options with which to do this.

I lived in Idaho once, so very long ago, and even though I was living practically on top of downtown Boise, there were very few options for food or shopping of any kind that was not a large franchise, or too expensive for anyone but the very wealthy who lived in the foot hills. I hated going to Wal-mart, but when I needed furniture for my apartment, I didn't have much of a choice. Even the thrift store was more than I could afford.

In the end, a critical examination of the morality of advertising techniques and business practices as used by large corporate franchises must occur. Profits should never come before people.

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