North Korea Talks Consumer Slaves

by Liz on November 23, 2012

in Books & Entertainment,Opinion

Liu Bolin, Hiding in the City No. 83, 2009, Photograph, 47 1/4 × 47 1/4 inches. Courtesy of Eli Klein Fine Art.

Today is Black Friday.

In the United States, this is a chance for citizens to prove their financial worth by shopping for things they don’t really need. Or, go into debt trying to accomplish this bizarre feat.

Through some Foucauldian coup of governmentality, we now believe a citizen isn’t really a citizen unless that citizen is also a consumer.

This isn’t just the case in the West — to an even greater degree this holds true in the capitalist domains of East Asia.

You could say I write this out of cynicism, but in some ways, though, the ceaseless brainwashing campaign that has people running, pushing, and trampling on each other for a lampshade or a video game console has been so successful, that by and large we don’t even take its effects into scrutiny. We take them for granted.

I spotted this “bizarre North Korean documentary” on Laughing Squid in August. But both times I’ve found nothing really bizarre about it, only some interesting Marxist perspectives about class, capitalism, and the manufacturing of propaganda so frighteningly effective it is, in many ways, impossible to dismantle.

One interesting example loops the creation of the ‘consumer slave’ (i.e. us) to the raising of funds/taxes that then go onto finance wars in the Middle East that damages thousands of innocent lives in these countries. Another points out the creation of the vague, empty slogan, something everyone can rally around. Everyone, that is, who are consumers.

The origins of the documentary are unclear. The YouTube user who uploaded the video claims it was handed down from North Koreans disguised as defectors. But my guess is it might even be a creation of South Korean producers with very clever North Korean touch-ups.

In the end, capitalism isn’t ugly because it creates armies of slave labor that stamp out t-shirts for Walmart that its wearers don’t really need. Capitalism is ugly, not to mention a bit scary, because it is a source of fuel for ongoing wars.

It’s the building of an empire that can’t be dismantled. Imperialism without a face.

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