There is no blue or red pill like there is no spoon. It's all purple haze.
Classical liberal enlightenment thought as distilled through political pundits, free-market professors of all disciplines, and other pillars of privatized public and partisan pontifications – across the proverbial aisle talk about capitalism as an economic system – only. A more useful and helpful perspective is that Capitalism is a political and cultural system; it is domestic and foreign policy; it is a historical narrative, an origin story, an addiction that separates people from each other, and a social system that makes a profit from war, labor exploitation, and extraction, employing economic hitmen, mercenaries and missionaries, while claiming to fight for peace, equality, and sustainability.
Capitalism is a way of thinking, feeling, dreaming, categorizing, and organizing life.
I capitalize Capitalism to emphasize capitalism's cultural constitutions and how capitalist mass media represents, characterizes, and embodies capitalism. We fight wars for Capitalism as a way of being and a set of values. However, we call the wars by other names – anti-communist, freedom fighting for democracy, supporting liberty elsewhere, and humanitarian missions while maintaining more than 750 military bases in 80 countries. But they are also capitalist wars. Capitalism is the water that drowns us while convincing many that we actually have gills – if only we would work harder to use them. Meanwhile, scuba gear, submarines, and soon apparently, spaceships abound for those that accumulate through the dispossession of people of their dignity and the emerald green abundance of the earth.
Consider the query: what does it mean to think like a capitalist? What type of species commodifies life, monetizes social relationships reducing them to transactional acts, uses differences to control labor, claims dominion over the earth's resource as a so-called natural right, and accumulates through dispossession? Capitalism is a way of waging war for profit and power through a weaponized cultural production and circulation of ideas that normalizes transactional values of domination and extraction.
What does all this have to do with Disney, Chile, and Donald Duck?
In 1971, Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart published in Chile Para leer a Pato Donald: Comunicación de masas y colonialismo, translated with a tweaked title as How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic. However, a literal title translation would have been "mass communication and colonialism." This was during the presidency of the democratically elected leader of Chile, Salvador Allende. I emphasize the elected element of his presidency as that did not deter the CIA from secretly supporting the eventual military coup against Allende. As Richard Nixon told the CIA, "make the economy scream."
How to Read Donald Duck examined the arrogance of deciding the fate of other people somewhere else through subterfuge – pushing colonialism as democracy and using means of mass communication to teach capitalist values.
"Having survived bonfires, impounding, and being dumped into the ocean by the Chilean army, this controversial book is once again back on our shelves. Written and published during the blossoming of Salvador Allende's revolutionary socialism, the book examines how Disney comics not only reflect capitalist ideology, but are active agents working in this ideology's favour. Focusing on the hapless mice and ducks of Disney, curiously parentless, marginalised and always short of cash, Ariel Dorfman and Armand Mattelart expose how these characters established hegemonic ideas about capital, race, gender and the relationship between developed countries and the Third World."
Ariel Dorfman was the cultural advisor to Salvador Allende from 1970-1973. After the coup, he fled for his life and now lives in the US. Approximately 40,000 Chilean citizens were kidnapped, tortured, imprisoned, and murdered during the Pinochet dictatorship supported by Western democracies across the globe. You can check out Dorfman's memoir here. Armand Mattelart is a Belgian sociologist and well-known as a Leftist French scholar. His work deals with media, culture, and communication, particularly in their historical and international dimensions.
While How to Read Donald Duck was burned, banned, and buried at sea, it was also a best-seller translated into numerous languages.
So, fifty years later?
In late 2021 Gabriel Boric of the Convergencia Social party and the Apruebo Dignidad coalition won the presidential runoff, defeating the ultra-right-wing candidate José Antonio Kast who has personal ties to the dictatorship of Agosto Pinochet and family ties to the German Nazi Party.
As reported by Romina Green Rioja in an extensive and clarifying article for NACLAdefinitely worth the read,"in this election feminists, sexual dissidents (queers), and Indigenous organizations mobilized to campaign for Boric. As Javiera Manzi, a spokesperson for the 8 March Feminist Coordinator (8M), pointed out in an interview with Democracy Now!, unlike Brazilian feminists' "Ele Não" ("Not him") campaign against the 2018 far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro, 8M decided to endorse Boric, underscoring the political stakes for maintaining and advancing feminist victories. Similarly, looming over the vote was the ongoing Constitutional Convention, and many Chileans understood that Boric's win would secure the path to finalize the vote for a new constitution in September 2022."
Culture is material as ideas, imagination, and creation, art, what is made and done, represented and circulated, constructed and abolished, and how we imagine and change material conditions of life. Culture is a contested space of meaning-making; meanings contest for space in your head and attention span in your imagination.
The algorithm is a forgery of choice, planned and sequenced as technologies of control and oppression, another faux democratic transaction. There is no blue or red pill like there is no spoon. It's all purple haze.
For an extensive examination of the impact of the Pinochet dictatorship on the workers that provided labor for the US and other transnational companies with contracts in Chile, check out Victims of the Chilean Miracle: Workers and Neoliberalism in the Pinochet Era, 1973–2002 by Peter Winn.
Check out the documentary film, The Battle of Chile, released in 1975, "Patricio Guzmán and five colleagues had been filming the political developments in Chile throughout the nine months leading up to that day. The bombing of the Presidential Palace, in which Allende died, would now become the ending for Guzmán's seminal documentary The Battle of Chile (1975-76), an epic chronicle of that country's open and peaceful socialist revolution, and of the violent counter-revolution against it."
For an insightful documentary about the relationship between the University of Chicago's Economics department and specifically Milton Freidman, dictators and other democratically elected leaders, and neoliberal economic development, check out The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Kleinas a book and a film.