Colonizing the Plantation of the Mind   (August 25, 2010)

The plantation economy's most valuable colony is the one in our minds.

All plantation economies rely on exploiting colonies not just for materials and labor, but as controlled markets for the home economy's products.

Thus Great Britain imposed restrictions on cotton weaving in India, forcing its colonial citizens to buy cloth produced by the home country's factories.

As I explain in the Survival+ / Survival+ The Primer chapter entitled The Crisis of Neoliberal (Predatory) Global Capitalism, global capitalism has reached the limit of the colonial/plantation model in terms of exploiting new colonies around the globe and subjugating their materials and markets to the purposes of home country domination and profit.

From this point of view, China and India are the last major "colonies" to be exploited, as they provide products and information-technology (IT) services at low cost, keeping modest slices for themselves while enabling the home countries' corporations to reap premium profits on the quasi-colonial output.

Thus Foxconn, which manufactures Apple devices, pays its workers roughly $200-$300 per month and earns a few percentage points profit--a few dollars at best on each Apple device. Meanwhile, Apple routinely skims gross profits of 40% or more on all its products.

This is the modern model of a plantation/colonial economy; much of the productive assets in China are owned by overseas Chinese (Taiwan) or other overseas corporations (Japan, Korea, U.S., E.U., etc.). This is the classic overseas planation model in which cheap labor and materials are exploited and waste products are dumped in the colonies.

As the limits of colonialization became increasingly visible, Global Predatory Capitalism had no market left to exploit but its home populace.

It did this in two ways:

1. It purchased the Central State's partnership in privatizing the profits from rampant speculation and financial leverage--i.e. the "financial innovations" which have strip-mined the middle class of their assets--while spreading the risks and losses from this speculative fraud onto the taxpayers, i.e. the public.

2. It deployed increasingly invasive marketing to colonize the minds of the home country citizenry, effectively brainwashing them into "consumers" who bought into the fantasy of ever-rising real estate and the dubious notion that debt could expand forever as long as the Central State kept credit cheap.

One of the key concepts in the Survival+ critique is the politics of experience. This is an elusive concept because what we take for granted is invisible to us, and we have to go back in time, so to speak, to rediscover a history in which the experience of daily life was quite different from the present.

Today, we accept it as "normal" that marketing worms into every once-private area of our lives. Not that long ago, adverts and marketing were limited to print media (newspapers and magazines)--fundamentally passive media.

With the advent of radio, adverts could push national brands via broadcast. Yet even this new medium was nowhere near as dominated by marketing as the present. Adverts came on every half-hour between radio programs.

Now we expect (and get) multiple adverts every six minutes on commercial TV.

The landline telephone was the standard medium for interpersonal communication. The only adverts related to the "Ma Bell" (AT&T) regulated phone network were in the phone book, and these were highly valued by marketers as one of the few propaganda/marketing vectors which reached into the privacy of every home.

Contrast that relatively protected home with today's shrinking zone of privacy. Now email has adverts, and text-based adverts on cellphones are the "New Frontier" of invasive marketing.

The key concept in all marketing now is supremely pernicious: any advert or campaign which reaches deep into the last refuges of privacy is considered highly valuable.

A passive print advert has lost its ability to influence; the "gold standard" is a campaign which violates the last remaining refuges of privacy--communications with friends via the Web and the telephone.

Where the only public adverts were once billboards, now there are adverts on the shopping carts in the supermarket--another violation of what could be considered temporary private space--and on the floor of the supermarket. Even the rubber dividers used to separate one's own purchases from the next customers now display an advert.

The colonialization of the plantation of the mind is now complete. It is not coincidental that those citizens who watch the most TV are also the biggest buyers of junk food and its accompanying junk worldview based on consumption, faux novelty ("get the new chicken-bacon-cheese-double-burger today!") and a passive disengagement from the real world: for example, cooking real food, raising real food, sharing the preparation of real food with others as an activity, teaching your kids some useful skills at home ("that's the school's job"), etc.

Passive absorption of marketing-dominated media is the primary activity on the plantation of the mind, and that of course is the goal of the colonial overlords: distraction, passivity, confusion, "divide and conquer," and the old stand-by, financial desperation.

The Plantation economy has conquered a substantial percentage of the minds of home-country "consumers." (They were once citizens, but the MSM has brainwashed them into the chattel known as "consumers.") Now that this internal mono-culture of marketing dominates the populace, exploitation as per the plantation/colonial model can proceed along a slightly modernized pathway.

As in any plantation/colonial economy, the real profits are skimmed by the predatory global corporations and the Central State which enables their domination. Very little flows down to the bottom 95%.

As in any plantation/colonial economy, restive elements will be suppressed, marginalized, undermined or co-opted.

As I mentioned yesterday, I worked on a real plantation, and the paternal aspects were quite seductive. As long as you did the work expected of you, life was pretty good; housing was subsidized, and the company maintained the town.

The internal plantation is less well tended and less paternalistic; just buy the junk we're pushing, and what happens to you afterward is your problem.

Experience itself has become so derealized that we don't even recognize our minds have been colonized into neatly internalized plantations.

RE: Wal-Mart and the Plantation Economy: correspondent P.W.D. submitted this account of his experience as a seasonal employee of Wal-Mart:

I have just read your essay on Wal-Mart and the Plantation Economy and wanted to share what I learned working this summer at my local Wal-Mart in a seasonal job since I am retired and needed to supplement my income because of the Ben Bernanke economy.

You are right that just walking into a Wal-Mart not only transforms one into a zombie but also lowers one's IQ by at least 25 points. I had not realized how many uneducated people really make up this country's population as evidenced by the typical Wal-Mart shopper. The customers shuffle along playing with their cellphones, shuffling their feet along the floor like they are medicated and staring blankly into the dull aisles of cheap Chinese junk.

The working conditions are horrible and no employee is treated as a human being; they are just a number on a computer. Also, employees are hired and fired literally on a moment's notice so the turnover is never ending. This keeps them from filing unemployment claims thus saving the company more money.

Oh and one more item. If it were not for the EBD and WIC programs that supplement many of their customers food supplies, I think Wal-Mart would lose at least 30 percent of their business. So basically Wal-Mart is being subsidized by the federal government.

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