The company store
“I owe my soul to the company store” is the refrain in the song “Sixteen Tons,” recorded by Tennessee Ernie Ford.
It was a song about the plight of coal miners, but it relates to broad swaths of the economy during the burgeoning union movement of the last century.
Only a lifetime ago, people still labored in mines, mills and on plantations. They lived in company towns that were pretty much closed societies.
Life revolved around their employer, workers lived in company housing, and most basic goods came from the company store. Workers purchased everything from the company store, often on credit.
In that world, like today, wages seldom met basic needs, so a bill accumulated in the ledger at the company store. The increasing debt meant you were indentured in a miserable existence of work, subsistence and debt.
Today, the entire economy is the company store. People are no longer indebted to one store or company, because the entire financial system makes sure the economic model of the company town is replicated nationwide.
The point of purchase is now irrelevant as long as debt is incurred and indenture is secured.
Equifax may be keeping the ledger, but you will still owe your soul to the company store.
I applaud the Tribune-Herald’s article “No love for agriculture?” in Tuesday’s edition. Big Island Sen. Russell Ruderman is so right.
We need to support and develop more agriculture here in Hawaii, especially here on the Big Island. We rely too much on the U.S. mainland for food. As he said, over 85-90% of our state food is imported from the mainland. We would do well to encourage and support local farmers. This would certainly increase money flowing into our state, as Ruderman pointed out.
Also, in the past, I would point out, we have suffered strikes from the shipping industry. Just about two years ago, Matson threatened a strike. Thankfully, there was an agreement at the bargaining table, and a strike was avoided.
But I remember in the 1970s when we suffered strikes. There were long lines at the gas stations. There were long lines at the grocery stores. People rushed the grocery store shelves to buy rice. It was common to find that most stores had sold out of rice quickly.
We can grow our own rice here in the islands. I heard that in Waipi‘o Valley they used to grow rice there many years ago. Also, we can increase the taro growing. We can possibly exchange our liking of rice for taro.
I personally prefer rice over taro, being an Asian, but if there was no rice to eat, I would eat taro.
I lived in Samoa for awhile, and that is all the locals ate there besides breadfruit and other things, so I learned to like taro.
Also, I think it’s a good idea for us nonfarming residents to grow food in our back yards. I personally have a small pineapple patch in my back yard and am making plans to start growing some vegetables in a raised bed.
Let’s stop being so reliant on the mainland for food, and grow our own food here in Hawaii. We can lower the prices of food for consumers here and also put money into local farmer’s pockets.
Much mahalo to Sen. Ruderman for bringing this to our attention!
Get on the “stick,” Gov. Ige and Mayor Kim! Support and increase agriculture in Hawaii!