Shopping Your Way to Hell
Yea, Though I Walk Through the Valley of South Coast Plaza, I Fear No Evil


As a member of Reverend Billy’s Church of Stop Shopping, I recognize the Devil in corporate commercialism where I see it; how this devil inhabits nearly every aspect of our 21st century lives; how the sign of the brand has replaced the holy spirit; how we are christened consumers rather than citizens; how our public spaces, our information, our history, our laws are all subjugated to the forces of the money market, where the endless treadmill of consumption defines human progress.  Money may not be the root of all evil, but it’s a good place to start looking.

And now, as if the devil’s currency wasn’t solvent enough, the managers of SoCal shopping centers — and directors of marketing (or as I like to call them “spawns of satan”) are offering proof that your very life may depend on your ability to shop.  How can this be?   Are we that connected to Crate and Barrel?  Apparently so. 

Earlier this month the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health published a report claiming that old people (you know who you are) who shop regularly are less likely to die.  You heard me right.  The report almost read like a veiled threat: either spend your money at Fashion Island, Beverly Center, Topanga Plaza, et al or the angel of death is close at hand.

The research for the report, conducted on 1,850 Taiwanese participants, concluded that old people who shop every day are 27% less likely to die than those who chose not to visit the mall.

There are so many things askew with this report that it’s hard to know where to begin.   Let’s just say for starters that the devil’s hand is at work here.   Who funded this report and why?  Shopping and health?  The whole matter overlooks the fact that your not likely to go shopping when you’re on your deathbed or connected to a dialysis machine, or that people who shop tend to have more money (and people with more money tend to be able to afford better health plans) or that comparisons in the report between shopping and say, hiking on the beach, or shuffleboarding, or swimming, or playing mahjong, or senior sexercize were non-existent.

But that didn’t stop the servants of the devil from making their claim.  Here’s what they had to say: “Shopping captures several dimensions of personal well-being, health and security as well as contributing to the community's cohesiveness and economy and may represent or actually confer increased longevity.”   Can’t you just feel the corporate boardroom devil in that statement.  What a tricky bastard Satan is.

But lo, the people listen to Satan’s words.  In response, many long-term health care providers are increasing their shuttling of old people to our malls. There, surrounded by the temptations of consumption, gray hairs will presumably not drop dead and, in all probability, spend a fair chunk of their retirement checks.  It’s only a matter of time before the devil wills his advocates into issuing subsequent health and shopping studies targeting every age group.  Soon we’ll learn that shopping cures cancers, clears up ACNE, reduces infant mortality and prevents hair loss.

There was one curious sidebar to report.  The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health also concluded that people who shopped more tended to be smokers and alcohol drinkers. Apparently lighting up and tying one on inflates your purchasing persona.  By extension, it also seems to suggest that going shopping drunk and nicotine-enhanced is better for your health than staying at home.

Common sense tells us that if we step outside, take a deep breath, smell the roses and engage in life, we will live, if not longer, better.  Leave it to Satan to tell us our life expectancy is at a purchase point.

Heaven forbid that everyone stop shopping completely.  But participation in our consumer culture shouldn’t be framed as a matter of life or death.  That kind of shop til you drop philosophy is not only pretty vacant, unsavory, unhealthy and ungodly — it will kill your soul.  Now please, move along to your next shopping experience.

— Nathan Callahan

First Broadcast April 22, 2011

© / Nathan Callahan / all rights reserved


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