Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Wal-Mart: A bulwark against revolution

One of the things that Barbara Tuchman reminded me about in her wonderful book The Proud Tower (see sidebar) is that revolution happens when the have-nots are really the have-nothings. At the turn of the last century, poverty was so extreme that we can grasp it only by looking at the worst slums in Africa. Those were the days when a worker labored 12 hours a day, 365 days a year, and lived with a family of eight in a two room cellar. Children often left the house in shifts because there weren't enough clothes to go around for all of them. People people's lives were such a misery that revolution seemed like a viable option -- or, at least, the same employers who kept them in those conditions assumed their downtrodden workers would consider it a viable option. What distinguishes current America from America (or Europe) a century ago is that even the poorest still partake of pieces of the American consumer dream. Indeed, only the other day, NPR ran a story noting that, in LA, it's not uncommon for the homeless to have televisions. People in American, no matter their level of poverty, seem for the most part to have clothes, shoes, TV, and access to food (even if it's the unhealthy, but tasty, McDonald's variety). Go up a step, and people have Wal-Mart -- and at that store they can get most of what they want for a price they can afford. There are cutting edge fashions (albeit shabbily made), consumer electronics, school supplies, furniture, everything. And people who can satisfy their basic acquisitiveness strike me as being people who are less likely to be fighting class warfare in the streets. Talking to Technorati: , , ,