Posts Tagged ‘capitalism’


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“Disney, of course, can, and could, have none of this. Which is what, ultimately, makes this movie a fantasy.”
Tomorrowland: Disney Studios in Fantasyland

by Steven Jonas

Walt Disney began his career, or at least first came to major public notice, with the fantasy creature, cartoon character, Mickey Mouse.  While over the years Disney Studios has gone well beyond fantasy, and well beyond Mickey Mouse, it still does like to deal in fantasy from time-to-time.  And so it has done in Tomorrowland, a sort-of science fiction, past-time-present-time-future-time, essay into the future of the Earth and human civilization.  (Actually, The New York Times reviewer, A.O. Scott, took the movie to task for “its blithe disregard for basic principles of science-fiction credibility.”)

The story is complex and I must admit that I wasn’t able to follow every one of its ins and outs.  But it starts in a time past at the 1964 New York City World’s Fair (with, among other things, a good deal of product placement).  It then seems to come forward to just about the present or perhaps just a bit into the future, with the central character, a child science-junkie in 1964, now a grown-up super science/electronics junkie.  And then it goes into two versions of a future place called — you guessed it — “Tomorrowland.”  When it first appears, Tomorrowland is a bustling metropolis, set in the middle of one-is-not-sure where, sometime in the future.  It is all clean and bright and white, occupied by a very diverse population of well-fed, seemingly well-educated, and very busy people.  It bears some resemblance, from a distance at least, to the Disney World Magic Kingdom (my, what a coincidence).

Very importantly, allusions are made to the fact that in our time, more-or-less, the Earth and we are succumbing to climate change, environmental degradation, filth, over-population, water shortages, and so on and so forth, all of which are inevitably leading to the “Sixth Extinction.”  (Pointedly, at least pointedly to me, excluded from the list are Permanent War, which now seems to be permanently with us, and the threat of nuclear war/annihilation and its probable successor, nuclear winter [which seems to be making a comeback as a major threat].) 

As I said, the plot is complex and I wasn’t able to follow all of its twists and turns.  In particular, I was confused by the fact that when we first see Tomorrowland, as noted, everything is working beautifully.  But then when we see it again at the end of the movie, as the setting for the de rigeur mano-a-mano that just seems to be an absolute MUST for such movies, between the hero, played by George Clooney, and the villain (who is a villain, but does not for the most part come across as villainous) played by the well-known British character actor Hugh Laurie, it is, while still white, run-down and deserted, with trash blowing all around.  I’m sure that that state of affairs is explained somewhere, but I missed it. 

At any rate, what we do get that appears in very few post-apocalypse movies (which seem to be growing in number every year — wonder why?) is a very uplifting new beginning: a large, very diverse, group of seemingly very bright, very well-educated, very good-looking, young adults are recruited to go forth in the world, show people the positive way, somehow restore Tomorrowland, and then, I guess, spread the good word and the good works, all around the world (that is assuming that indeed the whole world did succumb to climate change, species extinction, environmental degradation, and so-on-and-so forth). 

Tomorrowland and similar works aptly reflect the pervasive sense of impending doom gripping the world, but as works of artistic creativity they also accurately mirror the complete bankruptcy of capitalist culture and the fact the system cannot even conceive of a rational (let alone moral) way out of the crisis it has itself created.

So.  Very positive.  Very upbeat.  Very supposedly uplifting.  Yes, somehow, the Earth and human civilization will be saved, renewed.  BUT, and it’s a very big BUT, neither the principal cause of the decline and fall of civilization nor what would be needed to create a Tomorrowland that could actually work are mentioned, even in passing.  And that cause of course is capitalism, as the principal form of economic organization in the contemporary world.  As has been said many times, the principal goals of the capitalists are the making of profits from capital and the accumulation of ever-increasing amounts of capital with which to make evermore profit.  The ultimate outcome of capitalism, which depends upon the ever-increasing exploitation of both human and natural resources, is its suicide.

Disney, of course, can, and could, have none of this.  Which is what, ultimately, makes this movie a fantasy.  The on-coming destruction of the Earth as we know it, which is referred to in the movie, is “cause-less.”  It, apparently, just happens.  As for the reconstruction of the Earth, which is to be achieved by the legions of earnest young people recruited at the end of the film, it is seemingly to be achieved without any system of social organization and with no mention of the resources — physical, organizational, economic, and political — which will/would be needed to achieve the desired end.  To say nothing of the fact, that if this reconstruction were to be tried under capitalism, rather than the alternate form of socio/political/economic organization known as communism, exactly the same outcome would eventually be realized.  And that, of course, is the definition of insanity.

Postscript:  The day after I wrote this column, the following item appeared in The New York Times: “Pink Slips at Disney. But First, Training Foreign Replacements.”  At Disney World, Florida, long-time hi-tech U.S. employees have been replaced by lower cost temporary immigrants, coming in on “H1-B” visas.  The latter were originally intended to be used to bring in foreign workers to fill jobs that cannot otherwise be filled in the U.S.  But of course, these particular jobs were already being held by U.S. workers.  Right here in the Magic Kingdom we can see the true “Tomorrowland” at work: capitalism — and profits — over all.

Senior Editor, Politics, Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to his role with The Greanville Post, he is a Contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement, a columnist for BuzzFlash@Truthout, a “Trusted Author” for OpEdNews, and the Editorial Director of and a Contributing Author to The Political Junkies for Progressive Democracy.  Dr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013,, and available on Amazon.


Super rich are getting super richer

“Data confirm that the shares of income and wealth held by affluent families are at modern historically high levels,” the report said. “The gains in income and wealth shares have been concentrated among the top few percentiles.”

The report also looked at Americans’ earnings. While the median income of all Americans fell by 5% between 2010 and 2013, the mean income increased by 4%. That means gains by the wealthiest segment of the population pulled up the average.



The BAU scenario results in collapse of the global economy and environment (where standards of living fall at rates faster than they have historically risen due to disruption of normal economic functions), subsequently forcing population down. Although the modelled fall in population occurs after about 2030—with death rates rising from 2020 onward, reversing contemporary trends—the general onset of collapse first appears at about 2015 when per capita industrial output begins a sharp decline.

‘Limits to Growth’ vindicated: World headed towards economic, environmental collapse



A fake N. Korean propaganda film is the subject of analysis over at In These Times.



Cuban Politics & Zombies

It seems a lot of American critics saw only the surface criticisms of the film, and ignored the equally scathing critique of capitalism contained therein. US pundits, who raved about the movie, sought to use it as a propaganda piece for their own purposes, ignoring the complexity. Predictable.

The film contains an obvious set of barbs skewering the Cuban socialistic system for its shortfalls. It is cut off, with an embargo from the US for fifty years, because the US doesn’t like to have bad examples where the people get health care, for example. The Cuban economy has been hit pretty badly, but it still attracts tourists from across Europe and Latin America, as acknowledged in the film.

Juan and his gang are low level criminals, thieves, grifters, opportunists. Here’s where the unacknowledged critique of capitalism enters the story. When the zombiepocalypse hits, Juan takes it upon himself to start a Ghostbusters type zombie killing service – for a fee. He’s a mercenary, entirely in it for the money and unwilling to help others because it’s the right thing to do. Did you catch that?

He’s a criminal turned capitalist. They are closely related.

His sidekick then literally machetes a man to death, not a zombie, a man who owes him money. Driven by the desire to have money, he murders a begging neighbor in broad daylight.

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While the anachronistic Cuban state TV propaganda receives much deserved satire, so too does the mercenary ruthlessness of disaster capitalism. Both these extremes are lampooned. This also elevates the film well above and beyond the simpleminded propaganda championed by simplistic US proponents. It takes a broader view, a more mature view of economic realities and shortcomings.


To bring the story full circle, Juan reconsiders his own personal self-interest by film’s close. Instead of running off to America with the others, he does a 180. As a patriotic Cuban, he returns to shore to do battle with the zombie hordes and save Cuba: a selfless act in the interest of the many, not of his own skin.

The deeper message is one of sacrificing for the good of the people, the socialistic ideal. The Cuban government, while evolving from the structures of the old Soviet times, retains this sense of the good of the many over the profit desires of psychopathic billionaires from abroad. That much is reinforced in the film. It takes some knowledge of the world beyond US State Department propaganda, though.

Juan is not a great zombie film, but it is a unique one. It’s an interesting take on a part of the world we don’t see too much.


Conflict’s in the genes: The Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The Greanville Post

Steven Jonas, MD, MPH

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes can be viewed on a number of different levels, possibly not all of them present in the minds of its makers.  First, it can be viewed as a remarkable achievement in high-tech/special effects movie-making.  It is one thing to see Andrew Serkis motion-captured as the chimpanzee leader Caesar, who becomes totally convincing (no masks here) and conversant in at least three languages: Simian sign language, human sign language (apparently), and English.  (Being in California he may also speak some Spanish, but we do not have the opportunity to find that out).  But it is quite another to see literally a multitude of totally life-like chimpanzees engaged in big-game hunting or swinging through the trees on their way to an engagement with a group of surviving Homo sapiens holed up in downtown San Francisco.

Second, it can be seen as a fairly conventional action-adventure movie, man vs. man-like ape, the latter being originally a lab creation of the former.  (By the way, in terms of the story-line, except for a few names and superficial identities, the current “Planet of the Apes” series has nothing to do with the [original 1968 film] directed by Franklin J. Schaffer, with the screenplay by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling, that was based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des Singes by Pierre Boulle, and starred Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans, and the most appealing Kim Hunter, or its then-successors.)  

Third, it can be seen as a morality play, with a guess-which-group lives to a higher moral standard theme.  Fourth, it can be seen as an essay in paleo-anthropology, which is how I have come to see it.


A group of Simians and a group of Homo sapiens are survivors of a world-wide, highly fatal infectious disease epidemic which the humans conveniently name the “Simian flu.”  That it has nothing to do with the Simian population but rather was created in a Homo sapiens lab ([the recent CDC anthrax-smallpox episode], anyone?) is of course a product of the Homo sapiens media naming it the “Simian flu,” but what else is new?

The Simian population consists primarily of chimpanzees with few gorillas and one rather intelligent orangutan thrown in (the latter possibly being a throw-back to the Dr. Zaius character of the original).  They lead a hunter-gatherer lifestyle in a communal setting.  While they have one acknowledged political leader, Caesar, no one appears to have either a) any control over the hunting-gathering processes or b) any material advantages over anyone else.  They also appear to not engage in inter-Simian violence, as a routine.  When one episode of that sort occurs, an attack on Caesar, when the latter wins he condemns the perpetrator to death. Before he does so Caesar pronounces the profound words: “You are not an ape.”


The Homo sapiens population is classically Homo sapiens.  They have guns aplenty and with few exceptions are ready to use them at a moment’s notice.  Violence, against other species and within their own, is commonplace and for the most part fully accepted.  This characteristic doesn’t show up in this particular scenario, because there are so few of them left (having somehow acquired immunity to the disease).  But they are members of one of the very few species of animal on the planet that slaughters each other in numbers that have grown ever larger in the brief period of time that the species has existed in its so-called “civilized” mode of organization.  They are devious, both with each other and with the Simians.  Unlike the Simians, the Homo sapiens cannot exist for very long without converting one or more elements that they find in their environment into one or more goods and services.  It is the struggle of the Homo sapiens to get to an abandoned dam that lies to the north of where the Simians live so that they can have electrical power that forms the basis of the plot-line.  They are about to run out of power as the fuel supply for their generators runs out.

So the fundamental conflict in the movie is between an apparently egalitarian society of hunter-gatherers, which among other things rejects the use of use of intra-species violence, and the classic Homo sapiens society.  There is no historical indication that if the latter would somehow manage to survive, it would not eventually revert to its economically hierarchical organization based on intra-species violence.  Why?  Because [as I have discussed elsewhere], what has happened in Homo sapiens history is that the ownership means of production that converts elements found in the environment into the goods and services that Homo sapiens needs/uses for survival has been in private hands.  And it is that mode of ownership that eventually leads to violence within and between societies on a larger and larger scale.

I said in the introduction to this column that the movie could be seen as a parable of the conflict that took place tens of thousands of years ago, between the Homo species that we call “Neanderthal” and our own.  [By the way, that name comes from the name of the valley in Germany where the original fossils of that species were found, the Valley (“thal” in German) of the German river “Neander.”)]  It will be fascinating to see where the movie series goes with this one.  And oh yes, the next sequel is set up at the end of the film.


There will eventually be a sequel to this column as well, dealing with three questions. 

A) Apparently Homo sapiens and Neanderthals co-existed for tens of thousands of years.  Is there evidence that the former killed off the latter over time, or did the former succeed them, simply through better adaptation to the shared environment over time? 

B) Is there a gene or genes for intra-species violence in Homo sapiens that exists in few other species?  (If they are to survive, all animal species need to have one or more violence genes directing activities at one or more other species.) 

C) If Homo sapiens does have one or more intra-species survival genes is it selected for by the organization of Homo sapien communities around the private ownership of the means of production?  A consideration of these questions will not be appearing your local theater any time soon.

Greanville Post Senior Contributing Editor Steven Jonas, the polymathic author of this article, has published hundreds of essays on politics, history, culture, health and economics, and penned more than 30 books.  His essays normally appear on many venues on the web, including the leading political sites. Dr. Jonas’ latest book is The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S., 1981-2022: A futuristic Novel, Brewster, NY, Trepper & Katz Impact Books, Punto Press Publishing, 2013, and available on Amazon.