Money, Success, Fame, Glamour - Felix da Housecat (mp3)
(NOTE: Our filesharing nightmares continue. I hope these work, but if they don't, please accept our apologies and please please be more patient with us than we want to be with these #*#%&@ file sharing sites.)
One of my oldest friends has devised what he called Maples' Law. Roughly, it is this:
No matter how unattractive a person you encounter while in a Wal-Mart, there is someone more unattractive somewhere else in that same Wal-Mart.This works for all angles of unattractiveness, apparently, not just someone who fell out of the Ugly Tree. (At right, an example... except apparently without the sweatpants and wifebeater he'd wear into Wal-Mart.)
In his defense, Maples did not devise this law because he's an uppity rich snot who would never dare to dirty his soles with the scum of a Wal-Mart floor. In fact, when you hear him say Maples Law aloud, no matter how conscientious you may be to the plight of ugly Wal-Mart patrons, you can't help but laugh.
Most folks I know, myself included, simultaneously bad-mouth Sam Walton's creation while frequently if begrudgingly walking in to buy shit from them. To me, the story of Wal-Mart is proof that sometimes the road to hell really is paved with good intentions.
STOOPID TRIVIA -- Did you know Wal-Mart, Target and K-Mart all started up in the same year? 1962. Seriously. Check it out. Says something about 1962 that three different companies launched the same general idea at the same time. Kind of like when Armageddon and Deep Impact come out at the same time, or when they make two biopics about Steve friggin' Prefontaine in the same year.
Further, although today it seems like stores are created to be chains, in 1962 these three companies all started out as modestly small potatoes. They also realized that one way to achieve massive growth is to carry more shit, charge less for the shit, and live off lower per-item profit levels by pulling in a higher number of customers. They were just one more mom 'n' pop shop that grew up and ate all the other mom 'n' pop shops. Darwinian Business.
Or maybe we just don't care about the rulebreakers until they make something of themselves.
Much of the animosity towards the Dubya Administration is for similar reasons. Pre-Dubya, we were on top of the world. Post-Dubya, the rest of the world is catching up with us at record pace economically while simultaneously resenting our cowboy foreign policy and short attention spans. Not to mention that whole "we made up or exaggerated a lot of shit so we could start a good war."
But to most Americans, Wal-Mart is the king of the rulebreakers and ethics oversteppers. Folks who go there all the time and folks who never go at all both manage to see Wal-Mart as either just awful or as a necessary evil.
Walking into Wal-Mart is to witness one of the most fascinating and continuing social experiments of our lifetimes. If you really want to get a good idea of the average income, education and sophistication level of your city or town, Wal-Mart provides the most accurate rendering of any single store I can think of. That is to say, there's a shitload of poor people in Wal-Mart.
Here's a dose of hypocrisy for you. Liberals like me hate Wal-Mart because they lowball their employees, they lowball their distributors, they blackball the small businesses. But really we hate them because we think they hurt the poor. Yet... the poor go to Wal-Mart first. That's their first stop! They go to Wal-Mart to get voluntarily taken advantage of, and then stop off at the gas station for a lottery ticket so the state government can take advantage of them, and then they go down the street and buy illegal narcotics so the underground can take advantage of them.
Yet, oddly, very few people get stark raving mad about all three. Most of the folks who hate Wal-Mart tend to think that drugs should be legal, because people should be relied upon to make their own decisions when it comes to what they put in their bodies.
Isn't it kinda strange that the same state known for its medicinal marijuana also just passed a law banning fast food from certain areas? People should be more free to do drugs, but less free to buy fast food, apparently.
Wal-Mart isn't evil. It's merely the biggest expression of the spoils of capitalism, the best of a lot of bad -isms. Success only makes the hungry hungrier, creates an ever-increasing distance emotionally and physically between them and those underneath them, and increasingly numbs the successful from the plights of those they must step on or over.
Wal-Mart is U.S. Wal-Mart is us.
"The Queen and the Soldier" is from Suzanne Vega's first and eponymous album but is also available on the more-than-a-bargain Retrospective. "Money, Success, Fame, Glamour" is on the soundtrack to the disturbing film "Party Monster." This song is easily the best part of the film. Which isn't saying much. The aforementioned albums are available on Amazon.com's mp3 site and at iTunes.