A Consuming Wilderness

Anyone who thinks that Mall of America is just a big mall probably also thinks that the Grand Canyon is just a big hole in the ground.

- Mall of America advertisement

I do not own one of those T-shirts inscribed, on bosom and back, "Shop 'til you drop." I did consider peddling one that would read "Buy 'til you die," but decided my market would be minimal. Which all goes to show that I have an ambivalent relationship with consumerism. I find the buying and selling in which I participate to be both loathsome and seductive.

One way for me to understand this ambivalence toward my consumer self and society is to explore my relationship with the Mall. The Mall functions as a magnifying mirror in which I can see the buyer and seller in myself and my society reflected and enlarged.

When I refer to the Mall, I am not speaking about "mall" in a generic sense, inclusive of the 38,000 shopping centers dotted across the United States. Nor am I speaking of a Platonic ideal of Mallism. When I say the Mall, I am talking about the largest mall in the United States--the Megamall, Mall of America--located in Bloomington, Minnesota, a mere 20 minutes from my front door.

Having grown up in this country, I have learned to pay little heed to claims insisting that products or inventions are "new and improved," or "bigger and better." Thus, I did not think I would be surprised, shocked, or intimidated by Mall of America. I was wrong.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1993
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