Maul of America
Dignity Road Report* - June 27, 2014
Some say shopping malls in America are dying, going out of style. Could it be that shopping is finally slipping out of favor as an unofficial religion (a.k.a. addiction)? Or, more likely, has it merely gone online? Regardless, real-time shopaholism lives on at America’s most mammoth mall, the Mall of America (MOA). The MOA is expanding. It is enlarging its mission to colonize the minds of consumers searching for a destination vacation characterized by a plethora of instant gratification stations for the whole family! Reluctantly, I participated in a recent expedition to this expensive exhibition of manipulation. Here are a few of the lowlights.
It is clear that the MOA is designed to entice and entrap the minds of all ages at all times. During my expedition, my co-explorers included a modern family with small children who sought a play location sheltered away from a soggy day. I'd like to think of them as unwitting victims, but it’s complicated. They gleefully participated in their own indoctrination and exploitation. How does this happen?
Once you find your way in, you quickly discover that the first strategy of MOA marketing is creating a maze of amazement. Children and adults are plunged into sights, sounds, and activities designed to generate reaction and distraction. At the heart of the MOA is a colorful carnival of cartoon rides inspired by children's most beloved characters, from Ninja Turtles and Blue Dogs, to endearing friends of Dora the Explorer. What child could resist being lured into the din?
As a MOA amateur, I was captivated by the heroic efforts of parents attempting to mind their children amidst a sea of selling. They spent mega-watts of energy keeping their offspring from springing off to wild rides embedded among glitzy product promotions. For example, I observed a small child fall prey to a tempting toy and, consequently, busted for borderline shoplifting. Another tiny tot became stuck on an endless loop amusement ride after his parents lost track of him. He wasn't allowed to get off until his parents arrived to assume responsibility. The panicked parents had launched an emergency manhunt throughout the complex MOA complex. They were relieved to find the floundering child safely held hostage on a tiny-tot Choo-Choo Train.
Even seeking a restroom at the MOA appeared designed to entrap families when they are the most desperate and vulnerable. Hidden in an obscure locations, families faced a ridiculously restless restroom experience with only one family friendly stall for a lineup of worried, and in a hurry, parents urgently focused on preventing wetting. Amplifying personal hygiene problems, hand cleaner dispensers didn’t exist in this petrie dish of early childhood entertainment. Someone should notify the CDC.
As one might expect, over the course of hours, humans must also address their hunger, especially children. When one discovers the futility of easily escaping the MOA, one succumbs to the inevitable trip to the "food" court, which involves neither food nor a court. This area is filled with venders of food pollution, food pumped full of additives, super sweet sugary "treats" conjured up from high-fructose corn syrup and served with a side dish of salt smothered, fat-enhanced cheesy fries. If humans had to survive a nuclear holocaust, perhaps these substances could be confused with food. Yet, by today’s standards, I was shocked to see so many ignore the early warning signs of a deadly diet evident in varying degrees of visibly bloated bodies.
The MOA is a towering inferno of intrusive—abusive—marketing. For a few distressing, depressing hours I navigated this cesspool of consumption that processes children like a genetically modified corn crop. I was stunned by the popularity of this massive monetizing machine, especially in light of Minneapolis’s many engaging entertainment alternatives, including museums, scenic lakes, and fabulously fun family parks. Tragically, the MOA merchandising meth-odology may be spreading. Apparently Texas plans to build its own version of the MOA three times the size of the original Frankenstein. These modern monstrosities of American living are designed to merchandise every aspect of the human experience, especially our need for relaxation and play. The MOA is a take-it-all example of a ruthless capitalism that cannibalizes lives. Let’s just call it what it is: The Maul of America.*
Reporting: Linda M. Hartling, Ph.D.
* Dignity Road Report: Inspired by the work of Evelin Lindner and collaborative community, Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies. (For more information, please see: www.humiliationstudies.org)
- Written by: Linda Hartling
Global Dignity: What Is It? How Do We Achieve It?
Reflections written by Evelin Lindner in Thailand after the 12th Urban Culture Forum at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and the 23rd Annual Conference of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies, 'Returning Dignity', in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
At the 12th Urban Culture Forum at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, a group of doctoral students presented a fascinating project titled ‘The Resonance of Reasons from the Streets of Bangkok’. This presentation documented the high sense of responsibility among protesters in Bangkok, responsibility not just for oneself and one’s family, but for Thailand as a whole.
When I gave my talk the next day, I began by asking the audience: ‘How many of you feel a responsibility for your family and for Thailand?’ And then I asked: ‘How many of you feel a responsibility for our planet with all its people and animals?’ Almost everyone raised their hands.
With these questions I placed a value choice at the outset of my lecture. I did this to counter the trend in contemporary academia to obscure value choices by bypassing them. I agree with Kjell Skyllstad, the convener of this conference, that present-day social sciences need to revive their responsibility, which is to think critically (see Habermas, 1973).
What is at stake? At stake is the scope of justice, or the reach of morals: ‘Individuals or groups within our moral boundaries are seen as deserving of the same fair, moral treatment as we deserve. Individuals or groups outside these boundaries are seen as undeserving of this same treatment’ (Coleman, 2000, p. 118). I highly appreciated that the students care about society at large, not just about their own career. I admire that they make their research relevant to society.
Likewise, I admired the courage of another group of doctoral students who problematised the role of sexuality in society. Their presentation was titled ‘Wall of Sex’. The choice of this topic was so extraordinary that the following note was attached to it in the programme: ‘this important presentation deals with & displays mature subject matter that may be offensive to some; viewer discretion is advised’. In our conference in Chiang Mai, it was researcher Patchanee Malikhao who spoke on a related theme, on ‘Culture, Religion, and HIV/Aids in Thailand’. See also her book Sex in the Village: Culture, Religion and HIV/AIDS in Thailand, Malikhao, 2011.
With my question about global responsibility, I intended to convey two messages, first, that it is possible to widen the scope of justice from the personal to the national and to the global level, and, second, that the shouldering of global responsibility is what is needed most when the local is captive to global pressures. [read more]
My reflections were published also here:
Urban Dignity - Global Dignity: What Is It? How Do we Achieve It? (Part 1 in Volume 8)
Urban Dignity - Global Dignity: What Is It? How Do we Achieve It? (Part 2 in Volume 9)
in the Journal of Urban Culture Research, Volume 8 and 9, 2014, Arts and Social Outreach – Designs for Urban Dignity, Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts, published jointly by Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, and Osaka City University, Japan.
Please see the picture blog of my time in Thailand and Cambodia on my 2014 pictures page, and see also my picture blogs of the other years.
- Written by: Evelin Lindner
Pioneering Workshop on Dignity in a Brazilian School
- Written by: Uli Spalthoff
Video message from former UNESCO Secretary General Federico Mayor Zaragoza
The former UNESCO General Secretary <strong>Federico Mayor Zaragoza</strong> expresses his support of the World Dignity University in this. The message was recorded for the launch of the WDU initiative on June 24, 2011 at the University in Oslo.
- Written by: Uli Spalthoff