So We Won’t
April 15, 2014 § 30 Comments
We’ve given up most of our magazine subscriptions over the years and frankly not missed them much. Well, maybe we’ve missed some of them a little, which explains why I asked my parents to save their back issues of the New Yorker for us. This has the unanticipated fringe benefit of exposing my father’s fondness for the caption contest; in the back of the handed-down issues, we find his half-baked ideas scrawled across the bottom of the page.
Anyway. One of the issues we were recently bequeathed sported a rather illuminating article about Amazon (the online retailer, not the rainforest) and Jeff Bezos’s relentless quest to essentially destroy Main St America. That’s not the explicitly stated objective, of course, but if his goals are realized, there can be no other effective outcome.
The author of the story makes a very salient point: While WalMart is the target of much retail anguish in this country, Amazon gets off largely scot-free, in no small part because it’s not nearly as visible as WalMart. But of course it’s doing at least as much damage, and perhaps even more, particularly when one considers the massive amount of data Amazon collects about its customers. If the article is to be believed, Amazon will soon know what you need (or more realistically, what you want) before you know it. It will then dispatch a drone from its private fleet to deliver your parcel. Even if the drone idea never comes to pass, the extent to which Bezos obsesses over personal data is quite alarming.
We’ve never shopped at WalMart; I can honestly say we’ve never even been tempted. My limited experience with big box stores is that they smell weird, induce tremendous amounts of stress via sensory overload, and tend to be full of a whole bunch of crap I’m better off not owning. But we have shopped on Amazon, having fallen prey to its lack of visibility and our own craven desire for convenience. Never for books (or at least never for new books; I must confess to purchasing used books via Amazon), but certainly for the mercantile minutia of modern American life: Printer ink. Photo paper. An extra battery for Penny’s camera. Etc, etc, etc. And probably more etc. I wouldn’t call us frequent Amazonians, but I bet that over the past handful of years, we’ve bought something from Amazon an average of once per month.
I got to think about all this today after Jimmy called to see if we wanted a tractor bucket full of organic grain for our pigs. He’d cleaned out his silo, and he was just about to dump the cleanings, when it occurred to him that perhaps we could make use of the grain. Hell yeah, says I, because as anyone who’s purchased organic animal feed knows, they don’t exactly give that stuff away (though I bet I could find a good deal on Ama… ah, never mind). So a few minutes later, he rolled down the drive in his John Deere and we dumped the grain from the loader bucket of his tractor into ours, and then I spent a dozen or so minutes shoveling it into buckets for storage. I didn’t weigh it, but it had to’ve been a couple hundred pounds.
I guess I can’t tell you the exact connection between Amazon and my exchange with Jimmy, which was nothing more than one of the small, frequent kindnesses that transpires in rural communities every minute of every day. Ah, but wait: That’s it, right there. That’s the connection. Because the world I wish to inhabit is the one that’s defined by those small kindness, where the feed for our pigs is delivered by a neighbor and we chat for a few minutes in the driveway just as it’s starting to spit rain and then he’s gone again, off to make some syrup because the sap ran something wicked last night and it’s shaping up to be a decent season, after all. The world I wish to inhabit is one where the world’s largest online retailer doesn’t know a damn thing about me and my shopping habits, and furthermore is not scheming to launch a fleet of package delivery drones into the air above my head.
The world I wish to inhabit is one in which we don’t shop on Amazon anymore. So we won’t.