Thursday, May 10, 2007

Nowhereland isn't all that

Vinita, Kansas
World's Largest McDonalds
Originally uploaded by blueroot.

I'm reading a book on consumerism and place, by a geographer interested in how consumerism shapes the spacial aspects of our minds. That may sound strange, but it's really straightforward.

Look at a McDonald's restaurant along the highway, for example. When you exit and head for the golden arches, you're not in a particular place. You're not in Vinita, Oklahoma (above), for example (even if you are in real, physical terms-below). For all practical purposes, you're in the nowhereland/everywhereland of the Interstate services world.

map loading...

Anyway, the author (Robert David Sack) makes this point:

Postmodernism assumes that the consumer's world is total.
Instead of postmodernism, I would say cynicism; rephrasing Sack, I would say: The cynic assumes that the world of consumerism is the only world there is; that there is only show, and nothing authentic.

That may be a bit unfair to all the cynics out there, but hey. I played with cynicism for a while. Then I grew up.

It is my observation that the humanity of humans bubbles to the surface, and can't be dissolved, even when community is fragmented and everything is for sale. I challenge cynics out there to look a little closer, and you'll find authentic action, rooted in local place and culture, humming along.


At 5:22 PM, May 16, 2007, Anonymous Tina said...

I've eaten at that McDonalds a few times when I lived in Oklahoma. It even has a huge McDonald's gift shop that is way over-priced.

At 10:28 AM, May 21, 2007, Blogger Nathan said...

Ah, the worlds largest McDonald's is also the only stop on a long stretch of toll-way. I have stopped there many, many times.

I've often had the vague feeling of, "I could be anywhere" while shopping in big box stores.

Walmart is Walmart is Walmart regardless of whether you are in Oklahoma, Wisconsin or Kauai. I feel un-enlightened to admit it, but I find it strangely comforting.

Which disturbs me, as someone who likes to think of themselves as supporting the local economy. What does that say about me that I find the layout of a Walmart store comforting?


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