The Supermarket Supermonster


The supermarket today plays the same role the Church did the past. Every advertisement on its windows is a sermon. Sure, when you enter a supermarket nobody hands you a holy scripture demanding from you to comply with its commandments. This is an obviously outdated technique, suitable for less advanced times like the Dark Ages. The lack of such easily recognizable authoritative pressure creates an illusion of choice.

What you are being offered is a catalog of prayers. You take a bottle of shampoo, you pray for beauty. Add a box of low-fat milk and there’s a prayer for weight loss. And those are only the obvious ones. As complicated as our minds are, there is always an unfulfilled desire lurking in the dark, waiting for its chance for instant gratification. Finally, there’s no authority to administer punishments, only endless forgiveness. Nobody will forbid you from having chocolate just because you gained a few pounds. You may personally consider this a sin but for the Supermarket, it’s just another opportunity.

Logically, the role of the confessional is fulfilled by the counter. Your shopping list is one of the most intimate things you can share with the world. It says a lot about you, your way of life, your ambitions, even your intelligence. And it’s all there, in the Supermarket’s database.

Sounds ridiculous? Maybe from a personal point of view. But the supermarket is not interested in you as a person, hence looking at it from an individual perspective doesn’t make sense. It’s the old-style Church that addressed you as Mister Somebody. Today, you’re simply a bill. A sheet of numbers representing product codes, prices, date of purchase and financial details. This is all the supermarket needs. It will throw this data in its vaults, mix it with the others and let all kinds of marketing spiders analyze it, so their webs become even stickier.

One comment on “The Supermarket Supermonster

  • So true.  And needs spelling out  – with the brands equating to saints – & the marketing stories behind them personalising them.  Promises of social survival and salvation (& we do need food & to be clean after all).   Exchange and marketplaces have always been central to survival, but the scale & depersonalisation involved is massive now.  It does require time and determination to avoid orthodoxies, but can be done.  – just as an aside, i want to give a plug for Riverford organic food here in the uk, which seems to operate very ethically & transparently and (importantly) conveniently as well.  It ‘s just my personal opinion, but it’s made it easier for me to live more according to my principles.   In my experience, ‘Cost and Convenience’ is often where the most powerful existing players hook us, and now I suspect we’re relying even more on the wisdom of crowds.  Good information & a will to regulate in favour of quality of life everywhere vital, i think.

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