Bakkal vs. Supermarket

Ali Günertem
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The world’s natural resources are being consumed faster than nature can replenish them. The civilized world has finally realized the negative impact of this consumerism and started to implement the “Green” concept. What does this really mean?
Being environmentally conscious and socially responsible, using organic methods in production, engaging in fair trade, respecting Mother Nature, going energy efficient, and helping local economies is what the green concept is all about. Today these words have escaped from the environmentalists’ dictionaries and become mainstream.

Western culture and its way of living have long replaced the traditional ways of older cultures. In the last century, in the name of economic growth and benefits, Western capitalism has encouraged spending and wide-spread consumerism as never before in history. As the Western economy grew, its societies prospered. Due to many reasons such as colonialism, geography, politics, etc., many of the second or third world countries lagged behind this advancement. They, in turn, at the expense of their own ways in order to have similar if not the same economic benefits, tried to adapt to the western way of life. I believe that the Americanization of other societies is the direct result of this behavior. You would agree with me that sadly many Turkish traditions and old customs have been disappearing. Here is a great irony:

In the past decade or so it’s been proven that the Western world’s demands have increasingly started to outgrow the earth and exceed planet earth’s natural resources. The scarcity of food and water, the falling water tables and rising temperatures are very serious and challenging problems that future generations will face. (The Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” is a must-see) In the face of this scary scenario, the Western world has recently been taking responsible actions to reverse or at least slow down this downturn.  Today Americans are more concerned about the future than at any time in history. Hurricane Katrina was a wake-up call. Even though this movement is still marginal, more Americans are now demanding green homes and sustainable, recycled and reusable household products. They are also looking for newer sustainable economies to be built as network of Local Living Economies, meaning they are searching for long-term economic empowerment and prosperity through local business ownerships. These new smaller but independent businesses create wealth by engaging local people in the production, marketing, and consumption of goods. In other words, Americans are willing for mom-and-pop shops to make a slow but sure comeback.
There is an increasing pressure on big corporations to make eco-friendly products more available to customers. At the same time, there is also an incredible push to buy local products from local entrepreneurs who are getting their profits back, and in turn investing in their own local communities. Fresh Farm markets, specialized small organic shops, and individual coffee houses are great examples of how this new movement is on the rise. How many times have you complained about Starbuck’s coffee being too commercialized? Even its own CEO, Howard Shultz, whined about the loss of the familiar smell of its roasting coffee because of the faster automatic espresso machines that have replaced the traditional barista. Today, more restaurants are buying directly from fresh farmers’ markets rather than ordering from giant wholesale companies. People come to like buying from local groceries instead of going to huge soulless supermarkets. The survival of these small family operations is greatly important. Their survival will set up an example for many others to follow, and become operational too. If not for these smaller companies, big conglomerates may keep on swallowing the smaller ones.

Do you see how there is a great hidden opportunity here for countries like Turkey? We are mostly but not totally Americanized, or westernized, so to speak. We still preserve our bakkal-kasap-manav (mom-and-pop shops) culture. In recent years, giant supermarkets such as Carrefour and Migros have become part of daily life in urban areas. Turks prefer to shop at these mega stores. The biggest reason is undoubtedly the huge range of available goods. I respect that. However, having said that, I can’t stress enough the importance of keeping the bakkal culture alive. This is what has been supporting the local economy for ages. Today this is more essential than ever before.

Now the civilized world is going back to basics because globalization has almost killed local economies. Today smart and responsible people are pushing back and trying to re-create local living. In Turkey local living is not dead but certainly going in that direction. Only smart societies learn from others’ mistakes. Blind followers follow to get hurt while smart ones draw their own conclusions.
Last modified onSaturday, 06 May 2017 10:07