The Real Reason We Hate Wal-Mart

Ho hum, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $12 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit yesterday. That's bad! But gawd, Wal-Mart is so green. That's good! Neither of these things really matters, though. We hate Wal-Mart for a much purer reason.

Back in the day, it was so much easier to hate evil corporations. Nike ran sweatshops. Wal-Mart crushed small businesses and busted unions. It was a simple time. But eventually, evil corporations smartened up. They realized that being transparently evil—committing discreet acts of evil which could not be easily rationalized by the average American—was bad for business. [This is not the same as concealed acts of evil, or the willing participation of a corporation in a system which is evil. No, that is a wearying discussion for another day! In some grad school class maybe].

Nike, for example, realized its bad PR over the sweatshop issue was costing it more in brand equity than it could ever save with severely underpaid child labor. So it actually cleaned up its sweatshop issue, more or less. Likewise, Wal-Mart has, over the past five years or so, cleaned up its act more than one might expect from an evil corporation. Yes, they're still unconscionable union-busters, since they believe a unionized work force would destroy their entire business model; yes, they still get hit with claims of sexism and racist fuckery, but probably not any more than you'd expect from a corporation with more than two million employees. And to make up for these rather significant flaws, Wal-Mart has become one of the most aggressive major corporations out there when it comes to greening both itself and its entire (massive) supply chain.

We get it. You're environmental. Motherfuckers.

Now we are going to take the brash step of purporting to speak for vast swaths of other people. People who hate Wal-Mart. There are millions of us. Some people will cite the aforementioned political reasons to hate Wal-Mart; other lefties will vacillate, trying to reconcile their inborn hatred of Wal-Mart with the company's seductive green sheen.

In fact, it does not matter what Wal-Mart does. We will still hate it. Because our hatred for Wal-Mart is not, in fact, based on anything the company does; it is based on what the company is. It is a big box. A big, bland, concrete warehouse. It hurts us, the very vision of it. Wal-Mart comes into town and builds an ugly box and then all the regular little stores shut down, and all that is left is a big ugly box on the outskirts of town. And inside that box are bright, harsh lights and ugly Republican people and lots of NASCAR-branded items and a pervasive atmosphere of small-town hopelessness.

We hate Wal-Mart for aesthetic reasons. Anyone who grew up in a non-urban area where Wal-Mart dominated all commerce is familiar with that feeling of dread that goes along with the thought that you must drag yourself into that harshly lit box again and again and again, because to refuse to would mean breaking your meager bank account on cat litter and pie and Hanes shirts and pocket knives and radio controlled cars and DVDs that weren't marked down the lowest, lowest, lowest possible prices.

Wal-Mart is, in many places and for many people, inescapable. Much like work and drudgery and eventual death. It fills us with an existential despair that can't be assuaged by any amount of greening of the supply chain or corporate diversity initiatives. We hate you because of who you are, Wal-Mart. A big fucking ugly box. Go away and die.

[Pic: Flickr]