Big Box Business Takedown & The Consumer Revolution


The North American ethic takes root in a noble spur of personal freedom and liberty.  Entrenched in an ambitious history that chronicles the break from Old World mentalities, the maple leaf encompasses within it, all the social, political and intellectual transformations of our past.  Ideally, Canada is observed worldwide as a place of refuge for the individual thinker - a retreat of hope and equanimity, whereby ideas of liberalism and classlessness herald wide-open spaces that can afford the kind of lebensraum Europeans could only dream of.  Yet this palatial outreach of New World thinking that once forged our nation’s Charter and the United States Declaration of Independence has since become a house of cards.  So what happened to the great idea that was North America?  Perhaps it was simply a case of: too fast too soon.

The hegemony of America’s 21st century corporate capitalism, (birthed from the ashes of the Second World War), gave rise to a new kind of social movement that now threatens the very necessity of Westernmost culture.  Landscaping the hearts and minds of its citizens with empty billboards, ad campaigns, parking lots and shopping malls, the Western Hemisphere has since entered the age of multinational conglomerates and big box businesses.  In the name of all things Americana, these commercial giants have displaced the true spirit of liberalism.  Indoctrinated by the multibillion-dollar crusades that now run our daily lives, (from the cars that we drive, to the clothes we wear, to the food we eat), we, the individual, are no longer our own, rather an extension of the omnipresent brain of corporate commercialism.  In a twisted turn of events, our strife for liberty has seen laissez-fair economics mutate into Frankenstein politics.  In hindsight, it’s hard not to yearn for the simplicity of a life long since passed, a life that curated Old World austerities.

Ironically, it was the very interconnectedness and fundamental community ethics that made European and pilgrim society so successful.  Farmers, shopkeepers and tradesmen, were in direct contact with customers, (often as friends and neighbors), while communal streets lined with small cafes and independent businesses supported complex social structures, reinforced by a collective belief in the value and worth of a commonwealth.  This traditional school of thought promoted the notion that existing with less meant the enjoyment of more.  With priority centered on family, friends, community, philosophy and nature, (the vanguard voices of our humanity), people therefore lived much more deeply, mindfully and joyfully.  Despite the recent dislodgment of the European model by way of modern globalization, there yet remains an Old World sensibility in Europe that Canadians could greatly benefit from.  Having abandoned holistic priorities for a consumer-based precedence of plastics and disposable goods, we, the North American consumer, no longer thinks of what we can do, rather, what can we get - appreciating and understanding the world only by what the world can offer us.

The reality of big box business does not concern the consumer.  The consumer cares little for community and is unaware and apathetic to the impact individual choice and opinion has on the internal and external landscapes of our cities and towns, (which, unbeknownst to the consumer, directly reflects the inner quality of our lives).  Lower pricing, convenience, greater variety, and larger quantities, is what drives the consumer, armed with the conviction that, more is more and bigger is better.  However this misplaced confidence is one of the greatest oversights of the modern age.  In fact, subservience to the big box business model has done nothing but create a deep kind of suffering in the lack of true substance and human connection.   Mistakably, we the consumer, believe that because corporate chains like Target, Walmart and Superstore offer consistency when it comes to experience and environment, as well as more competitive price points and variety, we are in better control of our own lives, able to ascertain the best (perceived) deals.  However in reality, when we adhere to big box businesses, we perpetuate our own cycle of internal, (communal) suffering, giving more power over to the oligarchy of corporate commercialism that ultimately destroys our communities, runs our governments, influences legislation and dictates our lives to the benefit of their own personal bank accounts.  In Truth, there is nothing more enslaving than a self-serving corporate agenda that cares little for democracy and even less for the people.   On the other hand, real empowerment comes from true ownership of our own lives by way of our communities and ourselves.

Consciously choosing to shop local and support smaller, independent business, sees a renewed sense of personal freedom.  Communal integration, customer service and knowledge, reflect our most basic intuitions.  While big box businesses work hard to convince us of their job-creation, economic stimulus and community investment, by lifting the lid to expose the underbelly of the true reality, we immediately observe how the corporate agenda transforms our parks into parking lots, drives wages downward (perpetuating family poverty), marginalizes local shops out of business by displaced sales and places encumbering municipal costs on local government.  All the while culture gives way to endless suburban sprawl where the pulse of the community is ultimately lost.   Conversely, key studies conducted in August 2012 by Civic Economics in Salt Lake City Utah, found that locally owned stores create a wider range of benefits for the local economy and that small businesses donate roughly twice as much per employee to charitable organizations than their large business counterparts.  Furthermore the studies also revealed that big box business reduces a community’s level of social capital, (as measured by voter turnout and the amount of active community organizations). Not to mention the plethora of ethical issues concerning outsourcing overseas, whose big box business factories see underpaid workers laboring for long hours in poor conditions, handling hazardous chemicals without appropriate protection, many of whom are children, twelve years and younger.  But that’s a whole other ball of wax.

In conclusion, the need to sustain and support our communities as a life source for our ultimate peace and happiness is absolutely vital.  In doing so, we are spurred into action - championing a new kind of social movement that calls for the return of our food, our clothes, our bodies and mind.  Amidst the fray, we realign ourselves with fresh priorities and ethics that support social welfare by endorsing the rights and freedoms of the individual rather than the rights and freedoms of the multinationals.  So let’s bring back the culture of the depanneur that celebrates social interaction, empathy and compassion within the orbit of a thriving community.  Let’s opt for quality over quantity and spend a little bit more time and money to cultivate our wellbeing.  Already we are seeing the effects of this impetus.  The rising demand for natural, organic, fair-trade and local products demonstrates a shift in our collective thinking that will in turn, shape the social and political landscapes of tomorrow.    Although big-box stores have their unfortunate place in consumerism, we are reminded of the reality of their presence, and the worth and value in small retailers and local shops.  It is up to us, not just as consumers, but as providers and champions of freedom, to provide our communities with the kind of support they need to survive.  Sometimes we just have to look a little more deeply, to find where the real bargain truly is.

- Elizabeth Cucnik

BC General Election, Tuesday, May 14th!!


In case you haven’t heard, a BC general election is right around the corner, and it’s begging your immediate attention.  Every election by nature is a social and political call to action – a grassroots movement that manifests the democratic process to resonate our very own rights and freedoms.  By casting our voting ballot this Tuesday, May 14th we Canadians and British Columbians will be exercising autonomy in the changing, affecting and casting of our present and future.  Understanding the true power of the people within a democratic culture is about a deep understanding of collective consciousness and the realization of individual choice and personal freedom.  The 40th British Columbia general election will welcome 85 elected members to the BC Legislative Assembly, with potential for profound political and social change depending on the election outcome.  The tightening race for provincial leadership sees two major parties battling it out in a last ditch effort to convince voters of their respective platform and as people begin parking their votes, we see NDP Party currently leading with a 43% rating in the polls, with the Liberals narrowing the gap at 37%.  So just who are the Liberals and NDP anyway and what exactly do they want from us?

If you look carefully at the two frontrunners, you will notice some distinct differences between the 2013 campaign platforms, reflecting the internal dialogue and inner philosophy of the respective parties.  At the forefront we have our current premier, Christy Clark, whose leadership vanguards the BC Liberal campaign under the slogan, “Strong Economy, Secure Tomorrow.”  A basic continuation of the administration’s current strategy, (with the main emphasis focused on debt reduction via taxes), the Liberals have been quick to take aim at the “socialist” NDP opposition, peppering the public with reminders of past NDP failings from decades ago.  If nothing else, it has made for a more exciting campaign, reminding us of Stephen Harper’s 2011 federal campaign platform that focused much of its efforts taking aim against Liberal Michael Ignatieff.  And then, out of left field, came Jack Layton and the NDP.  So what can we expect this time?  Heralding the triumvirate of Liberal catchphrases: Families First, B.C. Jobs Plan, and the professed Balanced Budget, the Liberal’s 90-page plan dangles a glowing forecast for BC’s Liquefied Natural Gas, while dedicating certain strategies in effort to reduce provincial debt and deficit spending.   Orbiting the debt reduction centrepiece are proposals, (which critics have coined as “gimmicks,”) that include a five year freeze on personal income tax, children and teacher tax credits, reduction in corporate and small business tax rates, a promise to train more doctors and increase hospice space, as well as a proposed referendum on transit funding, film incentive policies, and annual forest industry missions to Asia.  However opponents criticize the plan’s lack of content as a reservoir of fatigued ideas buffered by an inexhaustible amount of publicity photos conveying a smiling Clark amidst the blooms of spring.   However many argue that the most entertaining and perhaps revealing publicity stunt came last Friday, when the Liberals took out a full-page ad in a local newspaper, advocating the clear environmental views of Green Party Leader Jane Sterk.  This tactic in apportioning the vote, and diluting the polls, characteristically brings to mind a divide and conquer mentality, which some critics have deemed as, the Liberal’s Trojan horse.

On the other side of the court we have the New Democratic Leader, Adrian Dix, who, despite scrutiny over his past political shortcomings, has revealed a seemingly fresh platform that appears to bring energy to BC’s tired political landscape.  Focusing on the environment, women equality and child poverty, the NDP platform also advocates three consecutive deficit budgets that promise to help BC climb out of the red.  Additionally, the NDP plan guarantees reviews or audits of Community Living B.C., BC Ferries, fracking, B.C.'s liquor laws and independent power projects.  With discussions over the possible sale of BC Place and the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre, (which would release the province of a debt-plagued BC Pavilion Corporation), it seems the Liberal’s bid to paint the NDP as an oppressive “socialist” force may prove to be fundamentally misleading.  However, dissimilar to the Liberals, it seems unlikely an NDP government would support the expansion of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, following recent statements made my Dix insisting the party will never support Vancouver as a major oil export port.

In brief, during the next few days proceeding Tuesday’s election, its important that we, the voters, really take the time to review exactly who these people are and what they stand for – asking the more difficult introspective questions: what do they want from us, and more importantly, what we want from them?  In dedicating time to understanding our democratic process, we in turn, dedicate time to understanding ourselves – respecting the culture and community in which we live and thrive.   Whether Liberal, NDP, Green or Conservative, the only real change comes from your hands alone.

-Elizabeth Cucnik

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