Finding Community at… McDonald’s?

I read an interview and an article with photographer Chris Arnade. He’s a controversial figure, but here I’m going to give my thoughts on the content of the two aforementioned documents. He was talking about McDonald’s as a centre for community. He says that homeless people and others often prefer it to shelters or non-profit centres because they find it to be a non-judgemental space.

Arnade is a socialist and I think that many socialists (myself included) recoil instinctively from any suggestion that corporations (or, at least, the environments that they own and operate) can have a positive impact on people’s lives. Yes, people should be able to find what these places provide even when there’s no profit incentive for the providers. Still, the restaurants do provide what they need and it does no good to shame them, however indirectly, for using them in this way. In many cases, they have no other options that offer the same quality of supports.

I really like going to McDonald’s myself. I love the salty taste of their food, especially their chips. My local McDonald’s I associate with many memories from throughout my life, from birthdays as a child to impromptu, late-night visits with a friend. I often went there after work, even if just for some tea before the walk home. Arnade mentions the company’s status as a franchise and maybe that has something to do with the variability from outlet to outlet. My positive disposition towards this particular restaurant obviously comes from having gone there so often from such a young age, too.

Arnade also mentions how reporters don’t often go to the best places to get their insights. I’ve read that he’s criticised other leftists and his criticism that reporters often keep the people at arm’s length could go for many leftists too. I’m not a journalist and I don’t intend to be but I do think that it’s important not to forget the everyday world, especially once we’re more fully able to live in it.

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