Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What "Main St." Are YOU Talking About?

With the onset of tough economic times, we've all heard a lot about "Main Street" in the news recently. This is of course a euphemism for the antithesis of "Wall Street", but I don't think it's a very accurate one.

In the Main St./Wall St. analogy, Main Street is supposed to represent ordinary Americans, small businesses, and the focal point of small town life. The person who came up with this analogy obviously hasn't spent much time on a Main Street over the past decade.

All of the small town Main Streets I have seen have much more to do with the past than the present. They are like real-life 20th century museums, and are usually associated with words like "historic" or "preservation".

Most contain at least two of these things:

-An antique shop(pe)
-An out-of-business (or at least soon-to-be) old school movie theat(re), usually called something like The Roxy or The Avalon
-A used bookstore, or
-A cafe/coffee shop/diner

Most of these establishments cater to hipsters, intellectuals, and the elderly (not included on the list: Vintage clothing stores, which cater to all three). This is hardly a random sampling of "average" Americans.

Might I suggest a better buzz-analogy for Cable News pundits to use in describing their overly black-and-white telling of the economic crisis:

Wall Street vs. Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is a much more accurate metaphor for average Americans, and it has little or nothing to do with Main Street. Wal-Mart stores are conveniently placed at, what sometimes appears to be, every other freeway exit. This is appropriate, since the freeway is probably the closest thing to a 21st century geographic equivalent of the classic Main Street.

Besides, what better symbol of gas-guzzling and buying-way-more-stuff-than-we-need (while crying poverty) than a big box store within earshot of a 5 lane interstate highway? THAT is the American Way.

1 comment:

Celia Purcell said...

I love it! You nailed it.