Creative self-loathing

For breakfast, up here in the High Doganate, I toasted a couple of things that were described as “crumpets,” and put good butter and maple syrup on them. There were six of these “crumpets” in the package, and the rest will go to the gulls of Humber Bay. How did I come to own them (the crumpets; I don’t own the gulls)? This is painful to recount, but I’ll steel myself.

You see, they were “on sale” for a dollar at the Inner Parkdale “No Thrills” supermarket. What I was doing in there will be the first question, your honour; I admit to going in sometimes because it is half-a-block away, and open late. My intention was to fetch “table cream” for my coffee in the morning (itself a dicey, “homogenized” product), but fell to wandering. Please don’t tell the pope the place was air conditioned: a draw during the continental mid-July. I succumbed to another item that was “on sale,” too. (Bear in mind, this Idleblog is only for my friends.)

Okay, it was some chicken legs on styrofoam, under plastic film. I know what you’re thinking; but I will go about this in the Poor Punjabi way, and make them into a passable curry.

Still, the purchase of items “on sale,” from chain retail facilities, fills me with self-loathing. While neither behaviour is strictly confessable, at least from my reading of the CCC, shopping corporate is a breach of my principles, and getting suckered by a “sale” compounds it.

Yesterday I touched on the “Benedict options” now in the air for Catholics, and others who aspire to break with pattern, and become decent people. Such options are often dismissed as pie-in-ye-sky. To the contemporary urbanized troll, with more borrowed cash than he knows what to do with (whether borrowed by himself, his employer, or his government), “organic” is sufficient. The capitalists now print “organic” on every second label, as a trick to double their prices so they can cut them by 15 percent in “sales”; and urban trolls are (ask any farmer) notoriously easy to con. “Free range” and other terms are used with like vagueness. (Essentially, a chicken is not free.) “Fair trade” means they’re paying off the Marxist insurgents.

To “conservatives” — the term for a market demographic — “back to the land” means hippie. For those with money it means acquiring a cottage and a motorboat. Most exponents of “traditional values” would be at a loss if moved back fifty years.

But even in this vexed business of shopping, it is possible to do something now. Cut your purchases by 50 percent, by doing without the rubbish, then be prepared to pay a premium on everything else you buy. Shop exclusively at family-owned stores, which must charge more because they cannot negotiate Walmart-scale wholesale prices. They also pay hideous rent to ruthless landlords, face malicious and frequently corrupt regulators from municipal, provincial, and federal agencies, bleed lifeblood to the sadistic tax collectors, and must humour customers who are possibly insane. They die like flies when a franchise operation moves in next door, blazoning signage to make them invisible — including flyer and lifestyle advertising, designed and lab-tested to inculcate Pavlovian “demand.”

To compensate, the family enterprise stocks goods not available elsewhere. Staff are apt to know what the item is, and where it came from; how to cook it, or what the better alternative might be. Having recognized their customer by name. Indeed, one comes to know them — to know when, “It’s a girl!”; that it’s Alex’s bar-mitzvah, or Jimmy’s graduation, or Andrea’s getting married; that Uncle Tomas has died. I am thinking here much less of mom-and-pop “variety stores” — selling trinkets, sweets, and lottery tickets to the local underclass, sometimes at the risk of their lives — than of specialized provisioners from butchers to costermongers, whose goods are also more likely to be fresh; and which, when they aren’t, rot honestly in the absence of all the conventional industrial preservatives.

Immigrants are especially to be recommended as shopkeepers: a constant reminder that few foreign cultures are as lazy as ours, or as disgusting in their eating habits. Though in the farmer’s markets I find there are still some white people capable of intelligent work, as opposed to time-serving.

For machines, and staff trained to emulate them, cannot match their service. To be a person, rather than a mechanism interacting with a mechanism, is already half the way to Catholic. Moreover, one may acquire the capacity for self-loathing, which is the only known cure for self-esteem, and which can potentially take one the rest of the way home.