Corporations v. Culture

By Sarah Isenberg

Earlier this week, fervent rallying against Walmart in Chinatown, Los Angeles, brought attention to the chain’s plan to monopolize a large parcel of land in this traditional district.  Walmart’s motives are highly unsavory and their expansion as a chain should be censored.

Living in America, we, as citizens of all races, ethnicities, colors, have prided ourselves in the “melting pot” of cultures we find ourselves immersed in -Los Angeles being the epitome of a locus of culture, brimming with the traditions, cuisine, music, goods and services of people of countries worldwide. Los Angeles remains as one of the only intact cities, and tourist destinations, where an individual can walk from one block to the next, and find themselves encapsulated in a world completely detached from the modern one. – This is a  step back into the traditions of a more simple time, where the food and company is of the customary sort, seemingly unchanged and untainted through time.

The Chinatown protestors picketed against the placement of a Walmart that would occupy a large portion of the historic district. The prevailing fear is that with a corporation like Walmart in the midst of a largely family-owned neighborhood, small businesses operating in customary manners would fail as a result. This fear is legitimate and backed by past evidence.

One of my hallmates in the International House in Arroyo Vista, Hoobin Huh, has spoken of and demonstrated the significance of the cultural districts in Los Angeles. A native of Los Angeles, but a resident of South Korea, she says the only place to attain traditional goods and foods of her country is to take a stroll in Korean-American neighborhood, K-Town. She expressed hypothetical contempt when I inquired how she would feel if Walmart occupied her Korean district. Her reaction is uniform with the Chinatown protestors.

These districts are a sampling of cultures from Asia, India, South America, Europe, Africa and others that reside in close proximity to one another; it’s a finesse or preciousness that hangs in a delicate balance. These Los Angeles’ districts provide the matrimony between the past and contemporary times, a reconciliation – uniqueness that should be preserved at any cost.

One son of a small restaurant owner compared Walmart to a “black hole,” a corporation with selfish intentions. Even more selfish means – Walmart’s lack of unions and benefits, coupled with low-wages for their employees, also enraged picketers. The protestors stood in resolution, saying that the collateral they held against the corporation was that they, as Chinatown workers and supporters, would not fill positions in a non-union company. To support a large-scale corporation in a privately-owned neighborhood would be supporting the desecration of their culture and ways of life.

I am an adamant supporter of the anti-Walmart movement. I thought that in a time of corporate expansion, the worth of tradition and culture amidst the bustle of big business would reach maximum escalation, – but that is chasing a false hope.  We, as Americans and neighbors of this world, grew our cities, industries, corporations, monopolies, out of our past actions and traditions, all people alike.  To defile and disregard our roots [traditions] once we grow our wings is a disrespect done to ourselves. In a time of machination, industrialization, and, most importantly, the impersonality that plagues our societies; it is comforting to return to our roots of family, interaction, familiarity, to experience the world on a personal scale – that is why the retention of our individual cultures that envelope these ideals should be the greatest priority to us as a collective society.