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Jack Chuter

Co-host of the Episode Party podcast, author of Storm Static Sleep: A Pathway Through Post-rock, editor at ATTN:Magazine.

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piqer: Jack Chuter
Thursday, 21 February 2019

Pessimists Archive: How We Overcame Our Fear Of Chain Stores

There undoubtedly is a humorous streak to the Pessimists Archive Podcast (aptly subtitled “A history of why we resist new things”). From the privileged vantage point of the present, it’s absurd to hear that we once rallied to forewarn our fellow citizens about the dangers of recorded music to our children, or caution that coffee could become fuel for overthrowing the government. Yet while the objects of our anxiety may have turned to technological addiction or the increasing potency of AI, it’s disturbing to discover that the primary drivers of our resistance are the same as they’ve always been: we remain infatuated with a fictionalised yesteryear, terrified that change will herald the end of a golden age that never even existed.

Take the episode on chain stores. Host Jason Feifer acknowledges that we are suspicious of behemoths such as Tesco and Walmart – many of us happily pay extra to shop at a local supermarket – yet ultimately we relish the convenience these chain stores provide. In other words, we’ve come a long way since the defiant sentiments of Texas congressman Wright Patman, who articulated his opposition to chain stores in the most extreme terms: “Let’s keep Hitler’s methods of government and business in Europe!”. 

Many of these objections centred on the fantasy of the friendly shopkeeper, who diligently paid their taxes and was beloved by the neighbourhood, only to be bulldozed by a commercial monolith with no regard for the local community. As the podcast points out, this narrative conveniently forgets the extortionate prices set by these independent shops, as well as how housewives were allegedly rendered responsible for these prices spiralling out of control (if only they baked their own bread instead of buying so much of it!). For all of the comedic voice-acting and goofy jokes woven into the story, Pessimists Archive is less about the charming ignorance of our ancestors and more about those human anxieties that still ring true in the 21st century.

Pessimists Archive: How We Overcame Our Fear Of Chain Stores
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