I believe that it’s important, but in a positive rather than a negative way. Let me explain. Would you prefer to live in a vibrant community or a dull one? If you’d prefer to live in a dull one, then don’t bother reading any further. But if you want a vibrant community, full of interesting, clever, entrepreneurial people, then it has to be based on independent businesses.
We have to be doing our own thing, providing things for ourselves, not working for some giant corporate empire that is sucking money out of our communities and giving it to the super-rich. So we have to: a) use small, local, independent businesses, and b) start small, local, independent businesses.
I also believe that they should be not-for-profit businesses, because if your company exists to make profit, then it’s all about money, and you’re in the same game as Tesco – you’re just a much smaller player. But that’s a subject for another blog.
The corporate world has tentacles into our High Streets, our homes and our minds. We have to build something different, to use it and to persuade other people to use it too. Global corporations only exist to maximise returns for their shareholders and so I believe we must reject them – by supporting local businesses.
But here’s the thing. Small, independent businesses are more expensive than the giant multinationals. If you buy clothes from an independent clothing manufacturer, they’re going to be more expensive than Primark; local shops are more expensive than Tesco; independent restaurants are more expensive than KFC – and so on (because corporations have sweatshops, economies of scale, the muscle to squeeze suppliers and the ability to avoid taxes). And who has more money to afford these things – the middle-class or the working-class?
The Transition movement is largely middle-class. No doubt about it. So maybe a major function of the Transition movement, apart from bringing communities together (which is great), is to fund local, independent businesses – to buy their locally-produced organic food, hand-built homes, wood stoves, solar panels, firewood, craft produce and home-made household items. These things will be more expensive, so it’s up to the middle classes to build this sector. When it grows, prices will come down, and the independent sector will be able to attract people who don’t have much money (as well as people who don’t care).
And of course the middle-classes can use their money to start local businesses too.
This isn’t the 19th century – the workers are not going to rise up and throw off their chains. Anyone who thinks so has a very romantic idea of the working-class, and almost definitely won’t be from the working-class. I am – and I understand that change will come from the middle-classes, at least in the West. If you’re reading this for instance, you’re probably middle-class. So let’s all roll our sleeves up and put our money where our mouths are.
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