Q: Where is America’s heart?
(Dan Simpson, Opinion Pages, Pittsburgh Post Gazette)
A: While walking the desolate streets of Chicago, I came across the following tableau outside of a supermarket on the North Side. Although it is not an answer, it creates a rupture in the comprehensible fabric of the Corporate Oligarchy. Today, I will be "questioning" this image in an effort to open new space. (Note: this is a digital photograph; I encountered this as a 3-dimensional cart. In a novel I'm writing, I will address the violent loss created in the capture of this "image" from an interactive "reality")
This lonely, tiny cart flies a white flag reading "Customer in Training." Terrifyingly, the cart is most likely sized for a child, especially since the basket of the cart could never accommodate the ravenous needs of an adult USAmerican. Additionally, my brief survey of the situation confirmed that even a literate child would have difficulty reading, as it is positioned at eye-level for an adult customer. This replica of the grocery cart is, then, a direct simulacrum of the commercial apparatus of an adult, at once mocking and disrupting the process of consumption at its most vital haven.
Is the cart flying the flag surrender, admitting that children are always-already customers, fragmented and "consumed" by consumerism before they even act as financial subjects in the system of their own oppression? Perhaps, but this also redirects the observer's gaze, unmasking the very act of consumption as an empty signifier. One can only imagine the child, mindlessly imitating a parent as he plays at shopping. He pushes the cart, grabbing objects at random and shoving them artlessly into the cart. He is not a customer, he is a customer in training. It begs the question, though: what differentiates the customer from the customer in training? All he does is disrupt the seamless stream of adult consumption, knocking into heels and disturbing the perfect rows of identical boxes. But aren't we simply disrupting the perfect lines of consumer goods? Isn't each customer simply training, never quite becoming a fully realized agent within the corporate structure?
Indeed, this cart--empty, alone, captainless--is the empty heart of America. We will never find enough Twinkies to fill it.