The Devolution of Societal Nicety - Otherwise Known as Shopping Cart Etiquette...
Ok, warning, this is a bit of a rant...
We all do it. Come on, you know you have! You claim some sort of moral high ground because you take your shopping cart back...every time. And that is a good thing, don’t get me wrong. But I hear people touting it so often and it has begun to irritate me. Like a lot. I mean is this what we have become as a society? We pat ourselves on the back and use this simple act as confirmation of us being good, moral people?
Thirty years ago, no one talked about this as a good thing. They just did it. No one would have ever left their cart in the middle of the parking lot. I mean maybe there was someone but as a society we had a tendency to police ourselves a little bit better. Or perhaps I am delusional. I just do not ever remember seeing people rounding up shopping carts in every parking lot as a kid. The masses of people who used the shopping carts put them back...every single time. It was expected, it was what we did.
Now today, we use our act of doing this as confirmation that we are “good” people. To take your shopping cart back means you are spiritually fit, and to not do it means you are an asshole.
But what the hell happened to the society where there was no morality attached to shopping cart returns? Society operated under the principle “if you take it out, then you put it back” without all the frothy emotion attached to it.
It feels to me, we as a society have become more isolated, we tend not to know our neighbors and even if we do, we do not interact with them or socialize with them. And this whole inward pull, where we sit behind closed doors all night then get up and go to work at our kitchen table or home office, has caused us to suffer socially. It isn’t the pandemic’s fault per se, but that really sped up a process that has been slow boiling for a long time.
I know I sound like an old codger (except I am female), and maybe I am well on my way to becoming just that. Regardless, I feel like this whole shopping cart thing is emblematic of a much larger societal woe. We are now congratulating ourselves for doing something that should be a no brainer. Our doing this simple act doesn’t make us better, the doing it means that we are taking one tiny step away from total self obsession and importance. One tiny thing. And then we say to people, “you know, I always take my shopping cart back...” Like it we just cured cancer or took in a family of starving orphans. We took a fucking cart back to where we got it after we used it solely for our own purposes. And fuck, most of us don’t even do that, we take the cart to some sort of cart round up pen that has been created and takes up parking spaces in the lot because society at large is too busy and too important to return the cart all the way back to where we got it in the first place. I guess the upside is that it creates a job for someone, but seriously, have we become this lazy?
Being a good person has become equivalent with returning a shopping cart. When I was growing up, there were entire families that took in their neighbors kids when the parents were killed in an accident, people took care of people’s kids for weeks at a time when someone was ill, communities rallied around each other en masse when one of their members needed support. And to be clear, we still do that. Mostly especially in the small town in which I live. And, I will also say that I am not the best person to reach out, I have a tendency to give money instead which is its own kind of helping. I see I need work in this regard as well, so please know I am including myself in this indictment.
I do not do any service because I think it makes me a better person. For me, acts of charity and kindness are performed because I want to have a good opinion of myself, because I have a life today that is beyond my wildest dreams and that is a debt I can never repay, and it makes me happy to help others.
It is great a large segment of us take the carts to the cart corrale. Good on us. But really, this is our measuring stick for spiritual practice and good citizenship? Seems to me that we could all aim a little higher, myself included.
Ok, I am done ranting now about shopping carts. I mean you do you, I am just tired of hearing about this whole shopping cart rodeo as evidence that we are good, moral and right. From my vista, we are doing what we should be doing in all aspects of our living, if we can't leave something better than we found it, we can at least put it back the way it was before we used it for our own purposes. Seems pretty fucking simple...and yet, here we are.