Supermarket Trip

Today on the way home, I impulsively stopped at the new grocery store- you know,
the one built right next to the old one, but twice the size. It’s surreal to begin with
just looking at the old store, which I always thought was more than sufficient, yet to
be torn down, already showing signs of decay, while right next door is a massive
new structure.

Stores like this tend to make my head spin. If you take just a minute to think about
the abundance on display, and what it really means to go from one massive aisle to
the next and see all the products (the SKUs, in retail parlance) on display, you can’t
help but think that the world is equal parts amazing and pushing into levels of
sickening consumption unparalleled in human history. Salmon from Chile, soybeans
from Vietnam, avocado from Mexico, canned goods from god knows where, piles of
cheaply made non-comestibles like plates and glassware, all made in massive
factories overseas, and so on. All of that plus hundreds of thousands of more things,
all there for the taking. And here is the kicker- the same corporation also operates a
store just like it, less than ten miles away! And another ten miles west of that! On and
on, endless consumption, anything and everything you want, all at your doorstep or
pretty darn close. It was pushing 90 degrees outside but people working in the store
were wearing sweaters because the AC was so strong. Tell me how THAT is a
sustainable use of electricity. Again, think about that replicated several times over
in every direction. It is a massive undertaking to be sure, sadly impermanent as we
see when nature throws storms and other such at us, an accomplishment of moving
materials like food across vast distances, but ultimately a testament to our callous
disregard for the world we inhabit.

These are the thoughts rolling thru my head as I walked in the door. But then it hit
me. This is the reality we have created. This is the privilege we make available – to
some, not to all- that past generations have fought for. This is the freedom we
gained, of a sort- not to tell people the proper way to respect artificial and
problematic symbols of patriotism, but to live in a world of abundance, free
from want. So how is it that some people living in this comfortable world, where
they are literally consuming themselves to death, can go home from this
exaggerated beast of a grocery wonderland and sit down and think, “our country is
not great?” And how is it that some of those same people are so blind to all those
who see the abundance and ask, “what bootstraps can I grab to get some of that
when all I see are barriers?”

So I guess I will stick to my family run grocery store in walking distance from my
house, where I know the owner by name, and where they might have far less to offer
but I can still find more than I will ever really need.