Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Front Line of the War Against the Poor on the Eighth Floor of Saks

The plans have been in the news for some time; but, as Reuters reported early this morning, yesterday marked the opening of an entire floor of the Saks Fifth Avenue building in Manhattan offering nothing other than designer shoes. Reduced to numbers that is 10,000 square feet for 100,000 pairs of shoes, "along with an express elevator, a VIP shopping room, expert shoe repair and two cafes." Furthermore, the United States Postal Service has accommodated the "marketing ploy" of allocating the ZIP code 10022-SHOE exclusively to this floor of the building. One has to wonder if Candace Bushnell could have conceived of such an extreme in even her most exorbitant fictions of self-indulgence. This, of course, brings us to the question of price and the inevitable joke that "if you have to ask, to don't wanna know." According to the Reuters report, "prices range from $210 for a pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes up to several thousand dollars for Chanel boots." Now you know.

Here we are, then, on the front line of that war against the poor, which, as I have previously hypothesized, is the real "story behind the story" of the war in Iraq. Figuratively speaking, the eighth floor of Saks sits atop one of the modal points of that bimodal distribution of wealth; and that modal point is so lofty that, from there, one can barely (if at all) see the other modal point. Gone are the Frank-Capra-like images of the poor staring longingly at display windows of Saks and Tiffany's on the ground floor. The real action now takes place in a space concealed from the very awareness of the poor. It is almost enough to make me seriously consider reassigning this week's chutzpah award, were not the motives behind the Crandall Canyon mine not just egregious but fatally so.

Nevertheless, we should still remember where that bimodal distribution of wealth may ultimately lead, which is a bimodal class structure of rulers and slaves. We are all familiar with the news reports of the working conditions behind the production of "designer" athletic shoes; but we have seen little attention paid to the production side of what is being sold up there on the eighth floor of Saks. Whether it is Chanel or Stuart Weitzman, it is hard to believe that cheap labor is not behind the product, where "cheap" implies production in a country that condones starvation wages or less. Once upon a time we told stories of such workers uniting to take control of their own destiny. Unfortunately, those stories are now history; and it would appear that those who have learned the most from the history are in the ruling class, meaning that they are well-equipped to prevent such a history repeating itself.

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