Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense that “Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil”, whether you agree with that statement or not is irrelevant here. But what if we were to replace the word government with supermarkets and argue that supermarkets were a necessary evil? Of course, people would agree and others, predictably enough, would disagree. The supermarket has its functions, as many things do; however, the supermarkets’ functions are well hidden. Take, for example, eating establishments on the high street. McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, and so on, these too, have their functions, that is, apart from maximising their profits, as all big businesses seek to do, they seek, also, to eliminate their minnow competitors. They do this by employing a number of tactics. Of course, their advertising drowns out their rivals to a large degree. Supermarkets operate on similar unethical principles.
Now I wish propose which may appear to many, a polemical argument, that is, those entering those dreaded supermarkets, do not do so voluntarily, it is not a free choice they make. It is a decision made for them. For some, this sounds illogical and unreasonable; it is not. Why would people shop at supermarkets, when they can buy similar produce at not only a cheaper price but also much grander quality? Those who are out of work and earning no money, pose nonsensical arguments about this. We go to such supermarkets, they say, because we have not the financial means to shop elsewhere. We must accept the idea that people do not take too kindly when they are robbed. Yet these people are robbed each time they purchase these products in these supermarkets and continue to go to these wretched places. What is erroneously referred to as the advertising industry, a malevolent business, must take much of the blame. This industry is based on deceit, coercing the impressionable to purchasing products they do not want, and more to the point, do not need. Alas, they are not free in entering such places. It is the same as anything: watching a television programme, supporting a football team and so on.
ALL television is based on propaganda. The different T.V channels vie for the biggest audience. They will use whatever repugnant means necessary to draw the viewers in. The supermarket will do the same with its “special deals”, such things are not designed for the good of the consumer but to give the supermarket a bigger market share and bigger prizes for its spineless shareholders, while at the same time, the public are being fooled and constantly caught in a web of lies and deceit.
This criminality, and it is criminality, is backed up by the state. We have what is described as “self -regulation”, in the food industry. It is true my knowledge of the food industry is not as good as one may hope, if I studied the subject, or spoke to people who had experienced it, then there is little doubt, I would know a lot more concerning it. But based on my very limited knowledge on the subject, if some lunatic had decided to put me in charge of such an operation, that is, of regulating the food industry, there are a number of things I would do (1), I would propose radical changes. Because I am a fair person, I would give the food industry a choice on this. Of the greasy and faulty food of the worst kind, I would wish to see them banned, but many would argue that this is impractical; maybe, but I do not think so, but in any case, I would offer them an alternative. This enormously greasy food, which I will call cancer food, should raise its prices, so much in fact, that all healthy food would be cheaper than cancer food. This is a plausible suggestion. However, I would offer a further alternative. The prices would remain the same but the food products would be labelled, and inform the customer whether the food is cancer food or not. No child should be subject to that sort of food: high saturated fats, an abundance of fizzy drinks and so on. The parent, in this case is guilty of one of two things: a foul education or of rampant child abuse, of the former, we can say it is not the fault of the parent but this leads to a separate argument entirely. (2), I would propose a “fat tax”. (3), all advertisements on unhealthy food to be banned infinitum, unless the consumer is informed of the content and of its implications once consumed.
In reality, supermarkets and fast food chains are not a necessary evil; they are an unnecessary evil. Going back to an earlier point, they regulate themselves. Now we must understand the absurdity of this fact. Self-regulation then is where the food industry regulates themselves without any outside interference. To understand this inanity let us compare what is comically referred to as the “Justice Department”, “the Ministry Justice” or whatever. Those criminals, no not the ones in government but the other ones, why not regulate themselves? The charge: murder. “What do you sentence yourself to?” the Judge may ask. “Two hours community service”, comes the jaunty answer. Imagine police officers regulating themselves or prison officers, the armed forces or the welfare recipients. “How much housing benefit should you be awarded each month, Mr. Jonson?” “Ten million pounds.” An absurdity indeed. Why then does the food industry regulate itself? That is not such a difficult question to answer. Big business. Such things are not furtive anymore. A great number of people in the medical profession have, in the past, argued for a minimum pricing on alcohol. Why has this not happened? Because big business will be affected and never must shareholders, profits come as second billing to public safety. However, it is not just the public safety either. It is something far more serious than that. The government, all governments have blood on their hands. How to increase heart disease, strokes, childhood obesity, cancer, and so on. One should ask the government because they are maximising the chances of such things happening. People, all over the place, are eating themselves to death. Who said you need bombs to declare war on your own people?
No supermarket, as everyone appears to know, are not just limited to selling food either, no they sell a great deal of different items. Take one of the more grotesque supermarkets: Tesco. What do they sell as well as food? Toys for children, birthday and Christmas cards, clothes, electrical equipment including computers DVD players and mobile phones, stationery, newspapers and magazines, there is a pharmacy, toiletries, household appliances such as washing-up liquid, shampoo, table clothes, books, DVDs, CDs, the list goes on and on. This is having devastating effects on smaller businesses, and there is little doubt Tesco act as gangsters, destroying their competitors by starving out competition. There is a word that is used what we may call ordinary people every day, and that word is “convenience”, they enter these supermarkets for convenience. This person, whoever it may be, perhaps buys saturated fats, along with other items. This person has unfortunate reading habits so they buy a newspaper of some kind, then finds their armpits are not quite what they should be so buys some deodorant, has a cat so picks up half-a-dozen cans of cat food and finally picks up a new mobile phone, as well as accessories. If people followed our good friend’s shopping frivolities, many local businesses would close, which indeed they do. Then the likes of Tesco declare war on what is seen as its enemies, and governments’ are handing them the ammunition to them.
This brings me to the discussion in one of the main areas of concern in tackling the monopoly of supermarkets. We may call this “the ethical shopper”, in other words, benevolent people who shop with a degree of etiquette and decency. So even when misguided souls enter the supermarket for whatever reason, many do at least have the benign intention to shop ethically. There is a good moral fibre from which a community is made. Now, as far as I can see, there are laws that should be put in place concerning this issue and any person or people would implement this if they were congenial enough, no such laws exist, not only do they not exist, they are not even debated. It is convenient that the government legislates and not amicable types: this is well known. These laws then ought to be considered as follows: (1), a trade agreement ought to be agreed worldwide. This treaty ought to include a minimum wage for all workers; (II), the conditions of health and safety, as well as organising trade unions and workers’ rights ought to be established and adhered to; (III), all information ought to be made available to the public. This information should be labelled on all products, stating where the food was made, produced, packaged, and shipped, what conditions the workers worked under, what salary they receive, and working conditions and standards of that particular country;
(2), just as humans are to be treated fairly and decently, we ask the same of animals. Halal and Kosher food ought to be banned and if these procedures fail to be met there will be criminal prosecutions, with substantial jail terms;
(3), supermarkets should be limited in selling food and nothing else but before that much more needs to happen, and it would be a revolution of a kind. This revolution would start in the best possible place: schools. It is here where children of all ages will learn about food, where it comes from, what it contains, and so forth. This will do a number of things, the most important is: it will reduce the rampant rise in childhood obesity. Every family and individual should be provided with basic food by the state; this should arrive on the doorstep in boxes and contain fruit, vegetables and so on. We then can be sure people will not starve. This is a revolution because it could never happen.
The next point I want to discuss is farmers and their produce. These farmers are at the mercy of the bellicose supermarkets; they are no freer than slaves. When farmers sleep at night, they do not know if they will have enough to eat the following morning. Their entire existence depends wholly on fickle supermarkets. Therefore, I wish to propose something even more radical, which in my view, ought to happen. Supermarkets belong in the garbage bin of history. The farmers and their produce, should, without intimidation, discrimination or bigotry, be permitted directly to trade with the public. Supermarkets would be replaced with farmers produce. Farmers would run the local markets and all profits would go directly to them, government should fund these initiatives. The produce will be fresh and uncontaminated, and as long as animals are not unfairly treated, there is no reason why the public should not buy these things.
14th -15 June, 2013