We are suckers. We are being played and rotted from the inside by our own actions. The most powerful drug in the world has gripped the nation and the world, and we willingly take it again and again, driven by our insatiable hunger and greed.
No, I’m not talking about opioid addiction or climate change but our shopping habits, and Amazon in particular. Maybe you think that Amazon Prime is the best thing that ever happened to shopping, but I’d argue that Amazon has bypassed what it means to participate in community and made a whole lot of money off feeding our hunger.
I read an opinion piece in the latest edition of the Four Corner Free Press, my favorite newspaper (besides the Winter Park Times, of course). In it, they asked what Amazon had done for the community lately? In a word, nothing. Has Amazon ever sponsored your kid’s play, a local auction or a gathering at the hospital? No, never. Have they given anything back to our valley except traffic, smog and delivery jobs? Nope.
We go to local businesses for community support. Being one who has asked for charity from local businesses for years, I have to say that they have given until they can give no more. We have to give something back, even if it means that we pay $5 more for that sweater at the local store. Community is a web that is self-sustaining and is symbiotic when it works.
Shopping on Amazon for stuff that is available from local retailers bypasses the community web and goes right into the coffers of one of the richest companies in the world and into the pocket of the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos. What’s he ever done for you or your town besides save you a few dollars while squeezing out the local retailer? Nothing.
How rich is Amazon? I’m glad you asked. The latest figures as reported by the fake news Washington Post says, “Amazon’s quarterly profit soars to $2.5 billion. … Profit rose 12-fold from a year earlier, while second-quarter revenue climbed 39 percent to $52.9 billion. This marks the 13th consecutive quarter of profits for Amazon …”
Bezos is said to have over $163 billion in the bank, making him the richest person in the world. And until this year he has kept most of it to himself, drawing criticism and ire from other billionaires. Last September he caved and pledged to give away 1.3 percent of his fortune to battle homelessness and support preschool education. That’s $2 billion! I’m not sure what that will mean for local projects like Mountain Family Center or the Early Education Center, but we will see.
Here in the valley we are surrounded by mazillionaires, but I’d wager that most of them shop on Amazon and could give a hoot about local charities and businesses. Some are too far off the ground to see the ants!
The sad thing is that as a society we are like happy sheep being herded into traps and snares that enrich companies like Apple, Google and Amazon and people like Bezos, while leaving our downtowns struggling for vitality. We are traveling heads-down into a robotic world, and we go willingly. The new connected society has bypassed all but the loftiest tower dwellers. We may think we are saving time and money with our devices and our shopping habits, but we are eviscerating our friends and neighbors, including many who have been there for us all along.
Amazon just chose New York City and Arlington, Va.,, as the locations for its new headquarters. The company says that “Amazon will invest $5 billion and create more than 50,000 jobs across the two new headquarters locations, with more than 25,000 employees each in New York City and Arlington.”
All those jobs and investments may just drive up rents, fill schools to overflowing and leave entire neighborhoods in the dust. Last time I visited New York and D.C., they had plenty of people and traffic already, so I’m surprised that they would want this growth.
This growth comes at the expense of our local businesses, job prospects and ultimately our communities. Their economic model increases traffic around the world and adds gasoline to the fires of climate change. This is all to save us a few dollars on shipping, purchasing consumer crap that we probably don’t need anyway. But we love it!
There is a Bezos Scholars Program at the Aspen Ideas Festival that pairs 17 students and educators to effect change in their communities. This tiny drop in the bucket is worth noting but is not a game changer.
Steve Skinner wishes you a happy holiday and reminds you to shop local before it’s too late. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.