Songs of consumerism By Octávio Lima For most teachers of English, syllabus changing is like undergoing some renovation in their

own house or even moving to another house. It means opening windows, clearing shelves and drawers, recycling a lot of things. It means breaking with a string of good old routines until recently very helpful to their survival. It means unleashing their creative potential to tackle the new challenges. The following is meant to give them a little help in coping with these changes and in filling a few gaps. Consumerism is one of the topics the teachers of English are supposed to cover in their 11th form classes. This topic overlaps other topics, as everybody knows consumerism affects society, the economy and the environment. A few classroom activities are suggested below. They should be seen as making part of a kit, providing ideas to be used, improved or recycled according to the class they are aimed at. 1. Show the students a few aerial views and/or pictures of (a) supermarket(s) with parking lot(s). (Pictures can be downloaded at, or at Describe the picture(s). 2. Play the song Wal-Mart, by David Rovics. (It can be downloaded for free at a. As the students listen, they’ll spot and correct the wrong word in each stanza. (forests/close/jobs/sick) WAL-MART David Rovics December, 2005 There’s a thousand acres becoming clear Cut down the forest, the big one’s here Cover the ground with a mass of tar Make sure there’s room for every car One floor half mile massive sprawl One store wonder super mall It’s spreading out far and wide Taking over the countryside Say goodbye to your trees, they’re going down Wal-Mart is coming to town Your sons and daughters will have a fit

At the mountains of plastic shit Chinese prisoners will sweat and bleed And you’ll get all the stuff you need Walton’s children profits reap Buying low and selling cheap And what happens to mom and pop Turn the key and shut the shop Say goodbye to your city, it’s shutting down Wal-Mart is coming to town There goes the local department store See the diner shut its door No more neighbors you can meet More ghosts than people on the street No more hands with living pay Sam Walton took it all away Beneath fluorescent lights they’ll work you bare The lucky ones can get on welfare Forget your children’s cap and gown Wal-Mart is coming to town No more local five and dime It’s all just Wal-Mart overtime But you can work all you want, night and day As long as you can stand the pay Just don’t get lost or have a kid You’ll end up like the last one did On the street and unemployed In a town that’s been destroyed Where misery has become a noun Wal-Mart is coming to town Glossary: (Sam) Walton (ll. 15,26): Founder of the giant American retailers Wal-Mart (1918-1992); diner (l. 22): a restaurant that looks like a passenger car where food is served in transit; cap and gown (l. 29): costume worn on formal occasions by the students of a university or college; five and dime (l. 31): also called five-and-ten-cent stores, popular in the early to mid-20th century, where things like toys and candies were sold at only five or ten cents. b. Play the song again. What’s the general tone of the song? – cynical? Pessimistic? Optimistic? Humorous?

3. Quote from the song to highlight the four major impacts of the big mall: shrinking of the countryside closure of local shops desertification of neighbourhood increase in unemployment 4. Choose the best option according to the context: a. “fit” (l. 11) means - test - seizure - party b. “sweat and bleed” (line 13) means - fight to death - join a fitness program - work to the point of exhaustion c. “they’ll work you bare” (l. 27) means - they’ll put off all your clothes - they’ll exploit you - they’ll expose you d. “get on welfare” (l. l. 28) means - get a prize - feel well - get money from the government 5. Look at these ending rhymes taken from the song: clear/here; tar/car; sprawl/mall; wide/countryside; down/town. Now look at the ending rhymes in each pair of lines in the last stanza. Add words that rhyme with them. Example: dime/overtime/crime

6. Role play/debate A mall will be built in the suburbs. There’s a public meeting to discuss the project. Choose a role. Study your card and add your notes. Businessman: lower prices, higher supply, better quality, easy access, free parking, safety … Environmental group activist: people had no voice; unfair expropriations; traffic congestion at weekends; more consumerism and more waste … Engineer: presents plan – location and area; gives figures; highlights advantages …

Land owner 1: supports the project – got good money …

Land owner 2: against the project – unfair expropriation, not enough money …

Reporters (local radio/s and newspaper/s: each one asks one question; takes notes; prepares a 80word report …

Shopkeepers’ representative: against the project; little information, not enough debate; bankruptcy of local shops; unemployment … 7. Further activities a. Show cartoon ( What message does it convey? (small business goes bankrupt) How does the artist convey it? b. Letter writing to the editor/the local council expressing concern about the coming mall. c. Design a poster against/for the project. d. Create a slogan for/against the project. e. Animation cartoon (Big Box Mart can be seen/downloaded at adp%3D1 or at Premiered on October 13, 2005 on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, it follows a typical American consumer, who shops and buys stuff with credit cards at a fictional store called

Big-Box Mart to fulfill his "needs". Later the man's factory job is outsourced to another country, because it's cheaper to sell goods to retailers by using cheap foreign labor. He ends up as an employee at the store he used to shop. Comments on this animation and the news article in the Chicago Tribune can be downloaded at and at,0,1259854.column Internet sources (latest access: February 2006 ) Further internet sources: More songs of consumerism: Beyong the Mall, David Rovics gid=1939178 Too much information, Duran Duran

BEYOND THE MALL David Rovics There are places there are hills They're not just called hills, they're really hills There are places there are forests Not like "Twelve Pines," but really forests There are places where the birds sing And you can hear the eagle call I know they're out there Somewhere beyond the mall There are places there are rivers Not surrounded by concrete, but living rivers With fish in them and frogs and little tadpoles With ducks and deer drinking by the sinkholes There are places far away The trees turn colors in the fall I know they're out there Somewhere beyond the mall There are places you can see the sky Not neon signs and billboards, but just the sky There are places with dirt on the ground Without the miles of asphalt, not a car around Where on and in the soil Good little critters crawl I know they're out there Somewhere beyond the mall There are places like that, and things don't have to be like this I mean not cosmetic changes, things really don't have to be like this There are places where people know their neighborhood Where people live there and they think that life is good There are places like that Somewhere on this spinning ball I know they're out there Somewhere beyond the mall There are places that I know I've gotta find Otherwise I will undoubtedly lose my mind Otherwise I'll end up just like you On ridlin or prozac or whatever things you do I'm going where the water is blue And the trees are so tall I know they're out there Somewhere beyond the mall

THE BICYLE SONG David Rovics ááEverybody's wondering what they're gonna do Everything's a mess and folks are feeling blue If your troubles get you down so much you can't abide Get on that bicycle and ride (chorus) Yeah, get on that bicycle and ride 'Neath the sunny skies or along the oceanside Just ride, ride, ride, ride, ride They're doing it in Eugene, Havana and Shanghai Even folks in Boston-town are giving it a try Throwing out their gastanks, the clean air by their side Get on that bicycle and ride (chorus) It's good for your heart and it's good for your brain When those fluorescent lights are driving you insane Your toes'll tingle in your shoes, when to the pedal they're applied Just get on that bicycle and ride (chorus) If you're having troubles with your lovers, the tandem's made for that You'll work together wonderfully or else you'll just go splat Gonna shut down Main Street, make the bike paths far and wide And get on that bicycle and ride (chorus)

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