Thursday, December 7, 2017

Sunday Shopping

Anyone as old as I am will remember when Sundays (and holidays) were really Sundays (and holidays) - in other words, when stores were closed, and the one thing one absolutely did not expect to do on Sunday was to go shopping. I don't remember exactly when the change occurred. It was probably gradual as laws changed, and more and more stores opened for more and more hours, depriving workers and customers alike of their traditional day of rest. The transformation must have been in full swing by the 1990s, because I remember visiting London at the end of 1992 and remarking how refreshing it was that stores there were still closed on Sunday and that the main noise on Sunday morning was that of church bells! 

Recently, Poland's Parliament has taken a courageous stand for the restoration of Sunday. This humane, anti-capitalist measure was supported by both the Catholic Church (still strong enough in Poland to matter socially) and Poland's still strong labor movement (which still prizes its identity as a movement in the interests of workers rather than business). The new legislation restricts Sunday shopping in the new year, restricts it further in 2019, and then outlaws it almost completely (with just a few exceptions) after that.

The U.S. is probably too far gone down the path of total surrender to predatory capitalism ever to hope to see such a reform here. (Witness the growing phenomenon of stores opening on Thanksgiving Day!) 

And, of course one of the biggest casualties of the corruption of Sunday in this country has been church attendance!

The U.S. is not likely to imitate Poland. But what the Polish example reminds us is that these are choices that we have made and continue to make. There was nothing inevitable about  the choice to make consumerist predatory capitalism our highest cultural value. It was a choice we as a society consciously and deliberately made. And what a world of far greater value we have lost as a result!

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