Big Brother and Big Box stores


I often wonder if the prophesy foretold in George Orwell’s novel ‘1984’, hasn’t already come true. That’s because everywhere you go these days, there are cameras watching you. Take fore example the ATM. You go get some money, Big Brother is watching you. You just have to look up and see one of those sinister-looking black semi-spherical evil-eye thingies looking down on you suspiciously. But after all, it’s for your own safety. In case some evil terrorist or drug-crazed freak comes and steals your dough as you withdraw it, they’ll be able to nail him and put him away in the slammer.

But there’s also a darker agenda behind it. It’s also there to keep an eye on YOU. To make sure you don’t commit bank fraud, or do anything else untoward that might label you an enemy of the state. The first function, after all, of the state security apparatus, is not to protect the country from external threats, but to spy on its own people, to keep a lid on internal dissent. That’s why, in many countries, in former days, and still today, the internal state security apparatus was called the ‘Ministry of the Interior’.

So getting back to Big Brother, we then go to the Dépanneur, or convenience store, same deal, security camera. Pharmacy. Ditto. Department store, airport, office building, university, traffic lights watching traffic and pedestrians. Ditto. Security cameras. Lastly, you have video surveillance at the grocery store. Ever notice that? Just look up to the ceiling next time you’re at Maxi, or IGA, Super Carnaval, Provigo, etc. You’re being watched. Not just to make sure that you don’t steal food, but for consumer behaviour patterns also.

At regular intervals, the marketing departments of the major grocery chains review the so-called ‘game tapes’, of all of us ‘rats’ circulating in the ‘maze’, or ‘lab’, or skating around on the ‘ice’, so to speak of the grocery store floor, to determine our patterns of consumption: How did children sitting in the shopping carts nagging their parents affect the choices of products that the parents eventually purchased? Why did Mrs. so and so, who initially reached for the brand-name mayonnaise, stop in mid course, and eventually change her mind and choose the bargain brand beside or above it? Was it because she saw a bright-coloured ‘special’ label that drew her attention?

Everything is gone over with a fine-tooth comb and eventually sent to consumer research institutes in places like Toronto and also is compared to data in the U.S., so as to tailor marketing strategies to get us to continue buying stuff, ideally more of it, because the market in today’s world is so saturated, and there’s so little opportunity to grow your sales and profit margin, that basically you almost have to eat out of the other guy’s plate, or make the existing consumer base consume more, or run after younger and younger consumers to get them to start consuming at a younger and younger age.

That’s why there are so many corporate mergers; companies are gobbling each other up, in a mad attempt to continue growing. In the meantime, we still have to do our groceries every week, and make intelligent choices. Like the Smashing Pumpkins said in one of their famous songs, ‘Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage’. I sometimes feel like that’s where we’re at these days. There are many people who feel upset with the erosion of their liberties, yet we somehow still feel safe in our cage of western prosperity.

Well, I have to go now to my sanctuary of faith. It’s Sunday today, and I’m going to worship the God of my understanding. There are no security cameras there; however, someone from above is nevertheless watching me. But I know that His name is not Big Brother. More like Our Father. And his will is not to get me to buy this brand or that of Mayo, but to glorify His name, and do my best to sanctify his Creation. Amen.

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