The anti-Wal-Mart sentiment has gone beyond simple protest to become a social phenomenon. Outrage against the store is politically energizing neighborhoods. It is introducing neighbor to neighbor - in a sense, binding the communities that opponents of the retailer argue Wal-Mart would destroy.
Wal-Mart, a symbol for many of consolidation and globalization and capitalism, has become the national ink-blot test. How people feel about Wal-Mart speaks as much about them, where they are in their lives and what they value as it does about the store.
"It's a reflection of the world we live in," said James Hoopes, a professor at Babson College in Massachusetts and a prolific business history scholar.
Hate of Wal-Mart cuts across all geographic and demographic areas, from inner cities to rural towns to affluent suburbs.
For some people living in small towns, Wal-Mart has become a symbol of their dying heritage. For others living in urban cities, Wal-Mart is the hand of homogenization on their once unique neighborhoods. For still others living in booming suburbs, Wal-Mart epitomizes the growth that threatens to destroy the tranquility people moved there for.
"The movement against Wal-Mart these days I think has made Wal-Mart the most reviled retailer in America," said Al Norman, a prominent anti-Wal-Mart activist.
Wal-Mart is just a convenient symbol of a much larger problem. But that doesn't make it any less responsible for the communities it tries to decimate with its predatory practices, not to mention its aesthetic evils.
Now if you want to read a really sickening story about Wal-Mart, you will have to go to Respectful of Otters.
See also this big profile of the Wal-Mart phenomenon in The Economist: 'According to A.T. Kearney, Wal-Mart's three-biggest sources of cost advantage are low corporate overheads, the efficiencies of its supply-chain and, above all, its low labour costs. A newly hired “associate”, as Wal-Mart calls its employees, could earn as little as $8 an hour, some 20-30% less than unionised workers at rival supermarkets. Union members might also have benefits, such as health-care insurance.'