Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"Inspiring": An E-mail from Jonquiere, PQ

This week a student sent photos from her summer travels. This one, of the closed Walmart in Jonquiere, Quebec, inspires her to remember what people working together can do. In this case, the reports go that the workers unionized, and Walmart promptly shuttered the store, a story well worth remembering. The photo shows that apparently even Walmart couldn't resist memorializing these events.

The photo she took reveals much about the bigger social and economic context that makes a Walmart possible- this mode of resource use (thinking of the environment, the earth, the water, the people) takes root and thrives in societies driven by consumption, when few other choices are available for the majority, and when lowering the price of consumption takes priority. This is of course a kind of false economy- meaning that the bills come due eventually, excepting that the 'bills' in this case are the long-term outcomes of letting a single retailer shape the global economy by driving down the price of production.

Her photo also reveals exactly the kind of consciousness we need to subvert the process that Walmart is the emblem for, because her photo and its story are ironic. This ghastly barren landscape is a monument for this photographer, a monument to how clearly we can see another road ahead and how close that change is. It is, in fact, all around already, when parking lots at shopping malls are transformed into Farmer's Markets (http://www.lfpress.ca/newsstand/Business/2009/05/16/9476671-sun.html), when Guerilla Gardening is a craft for children (http://londoncommons.ca/node/7251), to use just two small examples from my hometown.

So her picture makes me take heart- and makes me want to take pictures, and make monuments out of the spaces around us all that we can transform.

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