In my 2 years of blogging, this is the blog I had the most difficulty composing. My consternation evolves around the desire to NOT send the wrong message or be mis-interpreted. That said, I still wanted to create a post that provides a possible link between the left and the right camps. Progressive visionaries on the left (sometimes unrealistic) and disaffected, conservatives on the right (sometimes reactionary) bent on upholding family values. So here goes…..
I experience increasing levels uncivility and ungovernability. I’m thinking that a MEMBERSHIP based society and economic system, might be the way to go.
I cite the following experiences and scenarios:
RETAIL in general and MALLS in particular…..
Retail: BJ’s and Costco seem to have successfully pioneered the “members only” format. You can NOT just roam off the street into their stores. As a job developer finding jobs for clients , I was turned back at the entrance and could not even get to their human resources department. Being a membership entity, they know at all times who is in their store, when they were there and what they purchased. It got me to thinking about all the other places you can not roam into unannounced and uninvited, namely country clubs, golf courses, gyms, etc. Good for security, analytics, etc.
Mall: The common areas such as the food court, lobbies, vestibules and public corridors have become no-mans-lands, free-for-alls for youths who want to hang out and cause trouble for hours on end. When asked to leave they shout back to mall cops and regular cops alike. All sense of respect has evaporated over the last couple of years and everyone is terrified to take a stand and assert authority. Home delivery of whatever is needed be that food, products or services will replace the public arenas because the average person and patron wants no part of that mayhem. With memberships comes deliveries to fortified homes compete with alarms, cameras and pre-arranged services so there will be no interacting with strangers who have not been vetted.
This also got me to thinking about a prior blog in which I proposed gated communities for persons of all income groups, not just the wealthy. Why not extend this notion of limited access and intelligent access to all establishments and situations. A horrific crime committed some years ago in a neighborhood where I worked while I was trying to provide affordable housing and increased stability still haunts me. It provides the impetus for this proposal. An immigrant owner of a corner deli was shot point blank with a shotgun totting 16 year old girl during a robbery. Here we have a hard working immigrant trying to pursue “the American dream” while laboring in a distressed neighborhood commonly referred to as a “food desert” where there is a lack of grocery options. I suggest that the hard working, honest, law abiding residents of this neighborhood might support a “members only” shopping experience. Both they and the merchant might then shop/trade in a safer, more peaceful environment. Under this scenario, I envision somewhat of a speakeasy environment reminiscent of the 1920’s during the prohibition years. Ironically, we might deploy a 1920’s tactic in 2021. Access control through physical infrastructure (bullet resistant doors/windows and buzz in/buzz out entries) complete with plenty of closed circuit cameras would provide security for both merchant and shoppers. Maybe even utilizing facial recognition technology (with participants permission of course). Couple this with membership and you might be able to prevent killing of innocents be they shop keepers in armed robberies or mall patrons in mass shootings. It got me to wondering, how many more vulnerable front line service workers, teachers, and co-workers lives might be saved if membership was implemented and access was denied to those intending to disrupt or worse yet harm.
On a much milder note, a members-only system would provide retailers and businesses serving the general public with greater ability to control their space and the quality of life for them and their patrons. I offer this thought after years of experience as a mall cop dealing with career shoplifters and belligerent, offensive patrons. Rescinding membership by banning persons who repeatedly steal, curse, spit (yes spit) would bring control back into the lives of these struggling merchants and a sense of pleasantness and security to the customers who are truly customers.
My humble observation having worked for decades in distressed neighborhoods and struggling malls, is that the average person wants more control in their life. They want nothing more than to shop in peace, wake up in the morning to find that their car has not been stolen, and walk about without hearing the F-bomb uttered by every other person they encounter. As the social fabric deteriorates with less confidence in cops to police, teachers to teach and parents to nurture, the demand for a members-only segmentation of the population will only increase. When people feel they have no control over their environment, a sense of hostility grows. They feel they are ignored and insignificant. This might explain the groundswell of conservative, nationalistic populism, tribalism and polarization. It might explain these resentment sentiments among persons of all socio-economic and multi-cultural backgrounds.
I emphatically note that civil rights can not be allowed to be trampled upon when considering a membership based society. Rule of law must still be the law of the land. However, if one’s documented behaviors (be it proven as criminal or disruptive in nature) causes their membership to be revoked or adjusted, then we might instill a much needed sense of personal responsibility for the consequences of our actions. Moving in this direction would go a long way toward addressing the sense that social norms have run amuck and nobody is held accountable for their actions any more. Depending upon the level of infraction or disruption, the suspension of membership could be adjusted accordingly. Draconian methods and criminalization of anti-social events might be avoided. Who knows, with suspensions of memberships and re-instatements based upon good behavior, we might even bake in some positive behavior modification. It is my hope that this potpourri of ideas will appeal to persons of all socio-political, cultural and economic stripes. If implemented rationally and without malice or prejudice, we might create a society that we all deep down desire. Maybe this is something that persons from every corner of the political/cultural spectrum could agree upon. The common denominator would be the desire to move about in society in safety and with a sense of civility and pleasantness. Now that’s something to think about.