Little Tyber: A Fable (Part 1)

In an unnamed city there exists a peaceful, prosperous, middle-class American community. It is proudly multicultural, but no group is so large that it can claim a majority. It isn’t Utopia, but for the most part everybody gets along with everybody else. The community’s main shopping district is a citywide attraction known for the wide variety of merchandise in its many shops and the cleanliness of its streets.

Merchants new to the community begin to open stores in that shopping district. Let’s call them Tyberians. The merchants make it clear that they want to sell only Tyberian goods and only to other Tyberians, and they begin to transform the shopping district into a Tyberian marketplace.

Soon there are dozens of restaurants, groceries, and electronics stores catering to the Tyberian market. Shops selling traditional Tyberian clothing appear on almost every block.  Eventually no stores other than Tyberian stores can be found where once there was a shopping district known for its retailing diversity. Bookstores, clothing boutiques, shops that sold gifts, candy, toys, shoes, and linens disappear, along with bookstores and coffee shops. The Tyberian merchants refuse to sell any of this merchandise, but they don’t mind if neighborhood residents (let’s call them Other People) buy fruits, vegetables, and other items at Tyberian grocery stores.

It is often said that the concentration of Tyberian restaurants and traditional Tyberian clothing stores rivals that of the Tyberian capital itself.

The shopping district is given an honorary name to mark the Tyberian presence. The Tyberian merchants assume control of the Chamber of Commerce and begin to market the shopping district as Little Tyber.  The entire community is soon known by this name. The Tyberians view this as a show of respect for Tyberian culture and know that political influence will soon follow.

As the merchants intended, Tyberians begin to move into the neighborhood in large numbers, drawn by the Tyberian-only shopping district, thus guaranteeing the merchants customers for Tyberian goods. The new residents are welcomed by their multicultural neighbors but, as time passes, the lack of shopping for Other People causes many longtime residents to move away. The merchants, pleased by this development, see an opportunity to completely transform the community into a Tyberian stronghold and dream of electing the first Tyberian to the City Council.

Many of the Other People become alarmed once it becomes clear that the merchants intend to change the community’s population to support their business model. It’s common, they say, for commercial change to follow population change. Further, they wonder about the economic wisdom of the Tyberian merchants. Does it make sense to ignore the immediate market of Other People in favor of attracting tourists and Tyberians from around the world?

The merchants respond to all criticism in two ways: First, they insist that they are not discriminating against the larger community just because they want something entirely their own. They aren’t stopping the larger community from buying traditional Tyberian clothing or eating at Tyberian restaurants. Second, they accuse the complainers of being racist and not liking Tyberian people. The critics are silenced.

The community’s families are stunned by the change to their shopping district. It’s not just that they can no longer buy the clothes they want because the merchants sell only traditional Tyberian clothing. It isn’t only that there are now very few places for the Other People to eat because restaurants that thrive in other neighborhoods don’t open in Little Tyber, fearing they will fail.  It isn’t even the loss of sales tax revenue that now goes to other communities where the Other People go to shop.

What bothers the Other People is that other shopping districts in the community are beginning to fail. These areas survived a national economic crisis but are now struggling against the overwhelming presence of Little Tyber on the main shopping street.  Little Tyber has a limited appeal and is heavily dependent on consumers from outside the community to support its businesses. But the emphasis on Little Tyber has driven out so many stores and restaurants that Other People no longer come to any other part of the community to shop or eat. The marketing campaign of the Tyberian merchants has killed business throughout the community.

 

The gift shops, toy stores, and shoe stores have been replaced by convenience stores and small groceries. Other People can buy lottery tickets and bottled water in almost every store on every block, but they can no longer buy shoes or winter coats. The Tyberian merchants, secure in the marketplace that they have created, don’t notice that quality shopping for Other People has disappeared. Neither does the Chamber of Commerce.

The community is mystified by its deliberate exclusion from a shopping district that once belonged to everybody. As more and more Tyberian stores open the community’s residents look to the Powers That Be for help. But no help comes. The Powers That Be remain silent, cowed by political correctness, well aware that they will be accused of racism and discrimination if they suggest that the Tyberians change their way of doing business. Some community members wonder why taking the shopping district away from everybody else in favor of Tyberians isn’t considered racist and discriminatory, but the Powers That Be do not intervene.

Soon the Tyberians begin shutting down the main shopping district for their annual Tyber Day parade, holding outdoor concerts in residential areas to celebrate. That the majority of the neighborhood is not Tyberian does not matter. The parade and the celebrations afterwards draw Tyberians from the entire region. Tourism is a major component of the merchants’ business plan and the annual Tyberian festival is necessary for business.

Because Tyberians are so ethnocentric, they don’t recognize that certain holidays are important to Other People in the community, and the shopping district gradually abandons decades of marking holidays with street decorations and merchandise sales specific to the season. On Tyber Day the street is festooned with Tyberian flags, but the Fourth of July is no longer observed, and there’s not an American flag to be seen on Memorial Day or Veterans Day.

The end-of-year holidays of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Diwali are ignored. Instead, the Tyberian merchants create something called Winter Season to replace them. Winter Season in this particular city has always meant ice and snow and cold, a time for heavy coats, boots, and thick gloves, but the Tyberian merchants don’t sell these items. The community misses recognition of its holidays, and the merchants don’t understand why Winter Season is not an acceptable replacement. They decide that the best solution is to hold a parade to celebrate the Tyberian winter holiday.

Some ethnicities among the Other People, shut out of the main shopping district, begin to open small businesses to the east and west. Both areas are isolated and desolate and only a few stores are making any money. Most of the businesses are convenience stores, beauty shops, and small groceries, each catering to a specific ethnic group. These areas are known as the multicultural shopping districts.

The Powers That Be watch but do nothing. Tyberians vote and Tyberian merchants donate money. There are no obvious political problems in Little Tyber, although the Powers That Be realize that the merchants will soon want political power of their own. The Other People grow increasingly restless but unorganized vocal opposition to the Tyberian way of doing business does not threaten either the merchants or the Powers That Be.  Sales tax revenues have hit another low, but the merchants believe that this is because the Other People have not yet sacrificed enough to make the Tyberian businesses successful. The merchants plan to change that.

The peaceful, prosperous, middle-class American community ceases to exist, destroyed by the ethnocentrism of the Tyberians, who are less than 30% of the community’s population.

 

 

 

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