Whole Foods is a key institution for Tempe’s White community, including many nonwhite members who have dual membership in the Community. You don’t have to be white to be White, and you don’t have to be White to be white: compare, for example, Calvin Williams (vocation: law enforcement; avocation: golf) with his fellow Ohioan Ben Roethlisberger (vocation: FOOTBALL; avocation: rape).
Whole Foods was inevitable in a city that has two Starbucks stores well within half a mile of each other on, I shit ye not, Rural Road. The intersectionally homeless and unemployed would be able to keep the lobbies occupied in both stores, but it’s the rest of y’all fools who are keeping that shit in business for us. Not having Frappuccino money is how I have whoring money, or something like that. Both of these companies are officially woke, and God knows the cheap stuff straight out of the pot at Starbucks gives a cracker no option but to #StayWoke. Whole Foods, however, is significantly more obnoxious. Starbucks makes sense for anyone who wants to get a quick cup of coffee at a price that isn’t clinically insane, or an entire day of discount wifi. Whole Foods makes sense for those who are too stuck up for Safeway. If little Taylor and Bailey just absolutely need 365 product lines in their dinners because conventional processed foods are poison, *very Jeff Foxworthy voice* you might be a yuppie douchebag. Of course stewardship unto the Seventh Generation would be the ancient Indian legend cherished by these dipshits when they aren’t driving their children to lacrosse practice. Monty Robinson doesn’t need to dress up like a preppy asshole and run around with a stupid net on a stick in order to maintain First Nations traditions of reckless aggression; he, like lacrosse nation, lives in the motor age.
Sauce Boss on a bicycle would kill fewer passing motorists than Sauce Boss in a Jeep, but it’s illegal to bike all the way to the Whole Foods at Rural and Baseline. The our-parking-lot-is-our-manor bullshit and the threats to prosecute stray bicyclists, etc. for criminal trespass prove anew that Whole Foods’ environmental correctness is thoroughly bogus. If that company cared about the environmental externalities of its business model, it simply would not do business with landlords who post signs threatening to have its customers prosecuted for bicycling through the parking lot at one of its stores. That’s all there is to it. It would not tolerate lawful-evil assertions of overbearing positive law by bourgeois supremacists scheming to redline the poors by making one of their main forms of transportation unnecessarily inconvenient. But that was never the target demographic. Whole Foods seeks customers of a certain class, not of a certain other class that is cordially invited to take that shit back to South Phoenix. This is why it agrees to do business with landlords who post blanket bans on the use of bicycles on their property, under penalty of criminal law. It isn’t about warding off packs of teens who zip around and do wheelies all afternoon; that’s easy enough to stop by telling them to take it somewhere else. Whole Foods has a market waiting to be exploited in the best place, aside from Florida, to find municipal government by homeowner’s association, and frankly this market doesn’t look too concerned about the welfare or convenience of the carless local poor.
Your lenses aren’t quick enough to adjust to this essay’s next Transition(s). This particular Whole Foods has a large selection of wine–ha! I initially wrote that as “whine!”–for the liberal enjoyment of its White People. A SWPL store catering to inferred lushes who joke about the drinking problems that they don’t really have lol jk is no surprise. What floored me was one particular wine, on discount at $10.99 from a list price of $11.99 (i.e., definitely good gettin’ drunk wine for the less-than-spendthrift affluent), whose makers promised to donate a portion of proceeds to fund microloans in the Third World. It was called OneHope, vinted by Bob Mondavi Jr. and marketed by some self-important do-gooders in Napa whose precise identities don’t really interest me since Napa isn’t one of my parts of California.
The whole concept is exquisitely White, even painfully so. Here’s something that a White Person was planning to drink immoderately anyway, but in this case another squad of White People have promised to do some accounting juju with the proceeds to fund African blessings of the rain or some shit (much like carbon offsets), so the White Person can live well and do good at the same time, just by being a woke wino. It might as well have materialized straight out of a TED Talk. Hell, it may already be a TED Talk, not that I’m looking that bullshit up when I could return to the backlog of Scott Simon sermons that I finally started listening to this evening. Guy Raz has a voice that makes me want to die, so of course he emcees TED Talks on NPR these days. The only thing missing from OneHope is a smartphone code that can be scanned for a free Uber ride. What else would one drink after a hopeless (heh) day of complaining on Twitter about how the City of Austin fucked one’s shit up by not allowing ridesharing services for South By Southwest?
This is a crowd that loves to talk about “feelings,” as in their being “sorry that you feel that way,” i.e., in a way that contradicts their own feelings, which are of course deeply informed by supreme objective rationality, so I guess I “feel” hesitant to trust these smarmy fucks for a hot second on account of my mostly financial reasons for sleeping on Amtrak. They venerate a comprehensive suite of cultural touchstones that I used to try to give the benefit of the doubt, even over my better judgment, just on the possibility that my own gut feeling was overly sensitive and shrill, until I realized that the constituent parts, no matter how objectively harmless they looked in isolation, did in fact cohere into a disgusting, intellectually and ethically bankrupt whole. It made no sense for Whole Foods, a leftists’ grocery chain, to be run by a sock-puppeteering blowhard from Texas who was always bitching about how unions are superfluous and counterproductive on account of his own great magnanimity as a captain of business. It makes all too much sense for a grocery store catering to neoliberals to be run in this fashion. Similarly, mass transit is dramatically better than ridehailing apps by every standard of civic stewardship, but a frighteningly wide swath of the Democratic Party’s current base has gravitated to Uber as one of its idols, in the truest biblical sense, conveniently ignoring the ongoing torrent of scandalous news about that exceptionally sleazy company. This is the shit that passes for the American left.
Microlending fits into this pattern perfectly. It started showing up fifteen or twenty years ago in bleeding-heart centrist rags of the sort that discreetly fail to question the fundamental moral legitimacy of multinational corporations because that might offend people (read: sponsors and the affluent sellout segments of their audiences, the ones with the discretionary income). The story was that the poor in the Third World had been shut out of capital markets that the affluent in the First World take for granted and that the foreign aid money meant to lift these poor bastards out of poverty had been looted by unsavories. Concern-trolling of the foreign aid budget was important to these stories: nonmilitary foreign aid made up a tiny percentage of the US federal budget and a modest portion of the budgets of our wokest European allies, and much of the measly nonmilitary foreign aid that the USG was providing was (and still is) administered by CIA assets (hence most of the unsavories). The military aid to right-of-center juntas and tinpot dictators (direct allowances for unsavories) dwarfed the bleeding-heart budget that some of the same foreign crooks stole less completely, but the death squad budget was never put up for serious adult debate or subjected to the prominent scrutiny that was given to foreign aid programs.
The gist of the argument for microlending was that feel-good direct aid was being wasted by shitty governments, so the solution was for Western capitalists and their westernized allies to set up shop as usurers in countries with weak civil societies and weak, corrupt regulatory regimes. It was never put so bluntly, of course. Instead, it was presumed that these governments would always be crooked, meaning that the private sector would be able to regulate its own dealings with foreign borrowers better than these borrowers’ governments would ever serve their interests as constituents. It was also assumed that the supposed beneficiaries of these loans–the borrowers, not the usurers–had had enough charity and now needed a hand up, not a handout. Assuming that the complaints about the in-country looting of foreign aid money were accurate, the beneficiary population of this supposed charity hadn’t actually been receiving its advertised measure of charity because the funds had been stolen. Stories were circulated about piss-poor seamstresses in shithole villages being lent a few hundred dollars apiece to buy some extra sewing machines and become hella entrepreneurial. These stories slickly omitted the possibility of charities shipping the same equipment overseas and donating it directly to the target beneficiary population without pain of usury, with the option to slip the odd customs officer an extra twenty to expedite the shipment.
The potential for imperial abuse under color of law was huge. It was buried just beneath the surface of these stories. At the time, I fleetingly wondered whether the borrowers were risking indenture for amounts of money they couldn’t afford in the event that their businesses were less lucrative than they’d projected. It seems that this is exactly what happened to many microborrowers.
It’s reasonable to say that every fucking thing the neoliberals have touched they’ve turned into slimy shit. It’s equally reasonable to dismiss with prejudice every scheme and theory that shows traces of their influence for being irredeemably corrupted by their influence. Their work should be treated as fruit of the poisonous tree, every bit as much as the cultural output of communism has ever been treated. They may not have an equally bad track record, but they’re awfully close. In some respects, they’re even worse: the Khrushchev Politburo directed a decade or so of Soviet world leadership in civil aviation; even Brezhnev, a puffed-up geezer, managed not to grievously fuck up the Tu-144 project with meddlesome central planning. One of the best things that can be said of Elon Musk, a serial government sugar baby, is that his companies have roughly the same relationship to the US government that Tupolev and Ilyushin had to the Soviet government, but he’s less honest about it. Most of what the neoliberal project has produced is a battery of overlapping cons, rackets, and lies.
Criticizing these predatory scams is a great way to annoy cool people with disposable income, often the same ones who assume that Bill Gates is profoundly charitable because he has a foundation and that Warren Buffett is totally aboveboard. That motherfucker is a billionaire who takes his grandchildren out to Dairy Queen once a month and was audiorecorded by NPR haplessly trying to order an Egg McMuffin by describing its ingredients to the drive-thru cashier. Dude’s a phony, just like Holden Caulfield predicted. NPR wanted America to believe that a man detail-oriented enough to personally run a multibillion-dollar private equity firm was too much of a doddering old coot to know the menu shorthand at a restaurant where he regularly dines. I’d like to see proof that a team of investment analysts couldn’t equal Berkshire Hathaway’s performance for $50,000 plus benefits apiece per year.
Yes, I’d like to see someone prove this negative. I can understand paying an aeronautical engineer more per hour than I make picking blueberries, because engineering aircraft takes mad skills, needs to be done exactly right, and when it is done exactly right it yields a bitchin’ plane. I cannot understand why anyone who talks the story of neoliberalism for a living should not be scavenging chow mein out of a dumpster for dinner and sleeping under the Cross-Bronx Expressway. Substance abuse isn’t enough to deserve ending up living a life like that, but putting poor bastards out on the streets because they didn’t learn how to polish their bullshit properly and succeed in the knowledge economy damn well is.