Mall Madness and alternatives to capitalism

When ever i travel i watch the news on TV.  Yesterday the news was busy with fights that broke out in the Mall of America in Minnesota, which is apparently the largest retail complex in the world.  No one was seriously injured in these fights and the motives were unknown.  Given that there are fights all over the country on any given day, which the police come in and break up, many with serious injuries, one might be compelled to ask “Why is this news?”

My suspicion is that it is news in part because there is some video of the actual fights (tho it was lousy quality), part because it was in this huge mall and part because stores choose to close and this is pretty unusual.  Several of the stories i saw focused on the store closing aspect and (like the CNN story linked) how it was sad that this happened during the holiday seasons when families were spending time together shopping.

Really?  Families spend quality time shopping together after Xmas?

What i believe is that one of the things which is going to need to change if we want to have a chance at avoid problems like peak oil and climate change is that people are going to have to do less shopping.  And what this story reminds us is that shopping and especially mall shopping is something like a religious right in this country.  If anything disturbs it, even something which happens all the time in other places and is not news worthy, it is reported on as tho a tragedy has occurred.

So one of the keys to reducing the amount of shopping that we do collectively is to insure that wealth which is unused gets redistributed.  We have two different cultural systems for doing this here at Twin Oaks.  The first is “grabs”.  If you have something which you no longer want you put a not on it that says “grabs” and anyone who sees it and likes it can simply take it.  I did this with this slightly painted wooden box left behind by Angie in her move.  [I first tried to give it to Tupeloids first, who took the nicer Kana wooden foot rest which had also been left behind.]

But what if thing is really nice?  Is it fair to just have the first person who happens to stumble up on it snap it up? No, so we developed the sister to grabs, which is called “flips”.  The person offering something for free puts up a similar sign which says “flips” on it, plus some date and time.  Members who are interested in the object write their names on the slip of paper and at the announced time someone (often a child) randomly picks one of the names and that person gets the free treasure.

I’ve been arguing politely with some facebook folx about alternatives to capitalism.  What i would like in an overarching sense is many more places like these income sharing intentional communities is spend much of my time in.  These micro socialist/communist states function with the greater capitalist system, but could operate (at least theoretically) within most political economic models if permitted to.

But even deeper than the economic model of the community and the country is our relationship with stuff.  We need to be sharing more, taking pleasure in passing things off between each other in a fair way. And despite the heresy of it, shopping less.