Mourning the mall

More evidence of our collective decline. A stark example of the costs of a venal system bent on profit and exploitation, hacking away at people’s livelihoods for decades. Malls were always horrific to me on every level, but the loss of good jobs that enabled working people to provide for themselvess is the real horror here. This isn’t about malls per se, it’s about the corporate assault on the average American, aided and abetted by politicians bought by the same corporations. And now they have purchased the entire political process. What we have experienced has largely been corporations (and that very much includes the FIRE sector) run amok, employing neoliberal tactics and policy to legally and illegally rape and pillage the country and the world.

It may not be a perfect metaphor, but it is as if a family is going about their lives. They work harder and harder for less, come home every night, and sit together to watch tv. Slowly at first, people would walk into their house and steal their possessions. They would continue to get up everyday, go to work, come home, and watch tv. Then people began to steal from them and hit them as they walked out. They continued their routine. Then, when there was nothing left to steal the beatings would become worse. Then there would be rapes and murders. And all they did – or thought they could do – was sit and watch tv. Then people started dismantling the house around them. What was left of the stunned, battered and abused family continued to go to work (the ones who still had jobs), come back to what used to be their house, sit on the couch, and watch tv.

As I said, it’s not a perfect metaphor, but I think it communicates some of the horror we have collectively experienced and the lack of any real fightback. Though many have remained unaffected. And many have even reveled in blaming people for being victims of a ruthless system, finding fault with the people themselves and extolling the system for its fundamental fairness and opportunity. In the metaphor, they could be living a block away – or even next door – having parties and remodeling. Well, you get the idea…

Sarah Kendzior

My latest for Al Jazeera English is on the fall of the American mall:

The mall has long been derided by those with the luxury of an alternative. When the US industrial economy faltered in the 1970s, downtowns in many cities crumbled, and shopping malls – homogeneous, enclosed and sterile – both enabled and compensated for their demise.

In the media, malls were pilloried as monoliths devoid of character. Mockery of the mall spurred pop culture prototypes: vacuous valley girls, meandering mall rats. Underlying the mockery was grief for the loss of a seemingly more connected and welcoming urban life: the independent businesses, local markets, and community ties built around them.

But while these were memories for some, for others they were merely rumours. A functional local economy was a story our parents told us.

For US citizens raised in cities of post-industrial blight, there was the mall and the mall alone…

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