I’ve been posting about the imminent invasion of a certain major retailer to these fair islands over the last few months. Last week they sent some emissaries from the mother ship to visit bringing chocolate chip cookies and shiny objects for the Chamber of Commerce to play with whilst they plotted their eventual take over of the country. I didn’t hear anything about the aftermath of the meeting, at least nothing in the local news but I’m sure they said all the right things, did a fancy song and dance routine, and made shit up, just like the idiots who are running for president right now.
But, I decided to have a little fun, might as well, wallymart is coming and there is no stopping it. Besides, it’s been a slow summer and I’ve been kinda bored. So even though I won’t have any effect on it, I jumped into Facebook, logged onto a local Key’s business group (over 2400 members), posted a link to the article and ran with the headline, “Support local Key’s businesses”. Well, as you might well expect, it stirred up a right proper pot full of shit, which is probably still stirring today. I don’t know, I left the conversation a few days later.
In said post I tried to point out how wallymart is going to kill local businesses. They will compete with more lower prices on the crap they sell. They’ll hire a bunch of worker bees with promises of the moon, the stars, and the heavens above. And generally wreak havoc with the local economy. But, I guess I ain’t a very good writer because my points seemed to mostly go over the heads of those who will be affected the most.
At first it seemed people were split on wallymart. There were the usual arguments about being able to buy shit cheaper, more variety, etc. Then there were those who understood my point. They don’t want this abomination down here either. They, like many of us, came to the end of the world to try and get away from corporate ‘merica. A noble if not futile effort. They came with the knowledge there would not be a shopping center on every island, things were going to be more expensive, and if you had to have something, you could find it on the internet. For many, they went through the struggles to start up and run a small business down here and now all of sudden, this behemoth of retail will be coming in and taking over an already very small market. Remember there are only 70,000 residents in all the Keys and just 25000 of those live in Key West.
Sadly, as the discussion wore on, those against fell into the minority. Those in favor not only wanted wallymart, they were demanding it. Apparently said wallymart was an important part of their lives back from whatever shithole up north they came from. At this point, the discussion began to fall apart, as all discussions do on internet forums. Everytime I tried to make a point, I was shouted down, mostly by one ‘woman’ in particular who seemed to feel the islands were incomplete without a major shopping center so she could get a few cents off whatever she couldn’t live without. Name calling ensued, as you can see, threats of course, demands to ‘go back where you came from’ flew from both sides, at which point, I left the discussion, and the group. It appeared to be just a few steps away from Godwin’s Law, at which point the argument is invalid.
What the really sad part about all this is, wallymart moving here aside, is how important shopping and consuming has become in our society. I preach the gospel of minimalism here along with many other blogs but we are a distinct minority and much maligned by those who worship at the altar of the $2 waffle makers. I mentioned how I don’t have a vehicle preferring to use the bus, bike, or walk around. The last option left gasps by the pro wallyites. Apparently these people don’t walk anywhere. It’s quickly out of the house, get in the car, start up, crank ac to full arctic, and when you get to where you are going park as close as possible so you don’t have to expose your pasty white skin to the evil bright light up in the sky. The bus is for poor people of course, bikers are just in the way on the streets.
And as for not needing anything, well, I must be crazy. How do I live without all the trappings of a middle class lifestyle. What!? No television? No furniture? No $2 waffle makers? How do I even make it through the day? One person asked if I lived on a boat. I said yes but didn’t wait around for the responses. Another dirt bag live aboard, one of ‘those’ people. Even though I currently don’t live aboard, I said yes because I knew it would cause issues. What the hell, as I said, summer has been slow.
Much like truth vs religion, one side is never going to convince the other what is right or wrong about our consumerist society. Those who simply cannot wait until wallymart sinks it’s claws into Rockland Key don’t get it. For some reason they believe the shopping center will somehow solve most of the problems of living here. These islands do have a lot of problems but trust me, another big box chain store ain’t gonna solve anything. Create more problems, yes. Solve problems, no. But you can’t convince them.
These people have to have their shopping. It’s a part of their life. While those of us get it about living here, they don’t have a clue. I could sit out on the boat, when I had a boat, look out over the water, watch the sunset, the tarpon splash, and be perfectly entertained. A walk through Old Town, no matter how many times I have done it before still reveals new and exciting secrets. Sitting in one of the open air cafes, eating some shrimp while watching all the tourists covered in oil stroll by is a great way to spend the afternoon. And when there is the opportunity, maybe a trip out on the water, by kayak or paddle board does more to make one content to live here than anything else. Sunset at Mallory Square never gets old…never. There is so much to do here instead of roaming the aisles of some corporate maze in search of another bauble or geegaw to stuff in your already packed house.
Meanwhile those who won’t go outside because it’s too hot, too humid, too many bugs, whatever, are content to sit in the air conditioning blasting away at 68 degrees, whilst watching some mindless tv show, and stuffing their mouths with crap food, all of which they purchased at bargain prices at wallymart. They might as well be watching a show about the Keys on tv. They are missing so much. The water, the views, the atmosphere, the festivals. These people who moved here and then complain about not having all the conveniences of the mainland are the same ones who want to change the Keys to be like the mainland. Rather than adapt to the islands, they try to change the islands to suit them.
In some ways I pity those who simply cannot live without wallymart. They are missing out on so much. They firmly believe their lives will improve in some way if only they can get to the store to buy more shit. By the time they get home, the shit has lost it’s luster and before you know it, they are going back for more. They can never be satisfied with what they have. And eventually it will eat them up.
As for those who want wallymart so bad. You will get your wish, and be sure it’s what you want because it won’t be going away anytime soon once it does arrive. If you truly believe this shopping center will make living more better in the Keys, you have my sympathies.
As for me, and those who side on the more minimal way of life, we can’t do anything to stop the inevitable, but we don’t have to partake neither. I have what I need. I’ve adjusted to what it costs to live here and I’m ok with that. But I remember what the Keys were like when I first visited and every year, it changes more and more. Sometimes for the good, mostly for the not so good. It makes me sad for what we have lost here. And even sadder knowing we will lose more.