KUMA’ASI—There is a new shopping mall in town, and everyone is boiling over with excitement, enthusiastic about the prospect of shopping more. Sure, this makes for a grand total of two malls in the vicinity, so the construction of the second might very well be something to text home about.
The erection of new structures is commonplace in any developing area, yet it is the edifice that this particular building represents that is the worrying part.
What are the implications of a burgeoning middle class with bulging wallets and mounting desires to shop more? Is this mall more than just a mall: an ominous symbol of a greater trend—one that leads down the presumably irreversible path, a Pandora’s Box; one that emboldens a brood of rugged individualist capitalist zealots; one that makes us lifelong participants in the brutal, anything goes, take-all-prisoners reality game of global capitalism? Is this mall, and the attention that it and similarly new capitalist ventures garner, a sign that, like it or not, capitalism is now life?
Before anyone succumbs to a grave illness, there is an expectation of prior symptoms or warning signs. When, thus, should it become apparent that capitalism like a diseased parasite has chosen and infected a host?
When capitalism is life, one’s role as a consumer becomes a primary identity. Shopping and spending are the new all-weather sports. No more farming and walking, strolling the mall will suffice. Gymming, even, is capitalism. Every monthly membership paid, every protein shake purchased, every jersey donned feeds the fire of the wealthiest, with their ever-tightening grip on human (and non-human) existence.
This new life has the aim of emptying pockets and transferring wealth to the wealthier, while demolishing entire infrastructures—goodbye Mom and Pop; you put up a good fight!—and creating new poor classes that can hardly afford to patronize the new venture—ever seen a person who sells BMWs driving a BMW? But these details are trifling, eclipsed by the neon lights.
When capitalism becomes life, new stores become the talk of the town. When is the grand opening date? Deal me in! Exactly to the point where the arrival of the next capitalist ventures next-door elicits giddy anticipation. Some utterly elated when they hear the news that a Starbucks, Wal-Mart, or Kentucky Fried Chicken will be occupying their neighborhood. They feel that some elderly man’s business franchise (not art or culture) elevates a city and makes the city a relevant player on the global scale. They have fully embraced the capitalist dogma.
The ultimate goal of the capitalist is to defeat Nature and to control human and non-humankind. The destruction of all the world’s natural seeds will be replaced with manufactured seeds from Monsanto. The world’s water sources will all be poisoned by the evil intentions of the capitalist, and only he will provide us drinking and bathing water for purchase, to be delivered through a tap or a plastic bottle. Imagine a world where everything, from oranges to rice, is no longer an entity but a brand. There will be no coffee, only Starbucks. If the capitalist has his way, it will not be long before brands appear in our children’s books. Anything to make us all consumers as early as possible, to make capitalism our life with our first breath.
Under this philosophy where capitalism is life, the corporation, and hence the capitalist, is the supreme deity. We should all thank the capitalist for bringing his trinkets to sell, for else we would all be bored to eternity with nothing worthwhile to pass our days.
How would we spend our evenings, and our “disposable” income, if it were not for this new mall in Kumasi? More, we are told to be grateful for the capitalist and the corporation. He does not have to build the mall. Never mind that it is our labor exerted, our money spent, our taxes collected, we should all praise him for his generosity and forethought.
When capitalism becomes life, the seller has won. And he is not a local seller but a globalist seller whose profits leave our communities. That capitalist food we consume, that food heated in the microwave, pays for the seventh home of some man who lives thousands of miles across the oceans. Those poverty wages he provides the cashier ensure that she continues in a cycle that sediments her at the bottom of society for generations, for that is the only way to ensure he has a steady supply of workers to keep his enterprise thriving for the foreseeable future.
In between eagerly planning for weekend shopping trips, there is more to see about what the rise of malls means for society. It is naïve to be blinded by the lights.