The Winchester House, a sprawling Queen Anne Style Victorian mansion in San Jose, CA with no apparent rhyme or reason is a bizarre architectural manifestation of the guilty conscience (if not acute schizophrenia) of Sarah Winchester, widow of gun magnate William Wirt Winchester and one of the richest women in American history.
After the death of her baby daughter, and later her husband, Sarah Winchester came to believe that her family were haunted by the ghosts of people who had died by Winchester rifles, and that only by continuously building the spirits a home could she appease the ghosts (Through a medium her husband was alleged to have told her that the house must never be finished.)
I could not help but to think of Sarah Winchester when I read an item this morning on Business Insider that tells of how a Cleveland, Ohio-based Wal-Mart store is holding a food drive — for the very people who work there…
A sign in the store reads: “Please donate food items so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.”
Breathtaking isn’t it? This is America’s largest employer. THIS is how low things have gotten.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted Norma Mills, a Wal-Mart customer complaining “That Wal-Mart would have the audacity to ask low-wage workers to donate food to other low-wage workers — to me, it is a moral outrage.”
Kory Lundberg, a Walmart spokesman, said the food drive is proof that employees care about each other.
“It is for associates who have had some hardships come up,” he said. “Maybe their spouse lost a job.
“This is part of the company’s culture to rally around associates and take care of them when they face extreme hardships,” he said.
Extreme hardships like working at fucking Wal-Mart!?!?
Wouldn’t it be awesome if when someone told a lie, they’d just spontaneously combust? I would love that…
But what does any of this have to do with Sarah Winchester’s guilty conscience, you ask? At least she had one. Sarah Winchester acutely felt the wages of death that made her so rich and it ruined her life.
As everyone should know by now, but it still bears repeating, the Walton family is the richest family in the world and they collectively own over 50% of Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer and second largest corporation. The family is worth a combined total of $150 billion as of August 2013 and the six most prominent members of the family have approximately the same net worth as the bottom 30% of American families combined.
They didn’t do a goddamn thing to earn this money. Nothing. They inherited every cent of their billions.
Every item that is purchased at a Wal-Mart has a tax built in for the Walton family. The supply chain that reaches to factories in Chinese and Indian slums? There is a tariff at each stop along the way that goes, ultimately, into the Waltons’ bank accounts. Think about it for two seconds, that is what’s happening.
If it was a sea of faceless shareholders, well, that’s harder to personify, but this is ONE family.
Wal-Mart is America’s #1 private employer.
And they don’t pay a living wage.
The Waltons live like pharaohs and their workforce can’t afford the necessities of life. In a very real sense they and Wal-Mart are beginning to personify everything that’s wrong with capitalism. A single family owning the equivalent of the collective wealth of the poorest third of the country? Could even Karl Marx have predicted THAT? It’s preposterous and yet… it’s the way things are.
If the Waltons wanted to change the fundamental fabric of American life for the better, they could raise their associates up to $20 an hour and set a powerful example for other companies to treat the people who DO ALL THE WORK with actual human dignity. If they did that—and studies have shown it wouldn’t hurt their bottom line much at all, and even if it did, I think they can take the hit—well, it’s a whole new America. It really would be.
But to hold back on improving the lives of so many people, that is one of the single most obscene things I can contemplate.
Up to the Waltons, of course, for now at least, but when the revolution comes—and it will eventually—it’s their heads that are going to be on the ends of sharp sticks…