There is a new sales campaign the Disney Company recently announced. Wall Street analysts talk excitedly about the “newborn market.” Disney representatives enter hospitals’ birth rooms with sales kits, trying to sell onesies with Mickey logos to the enthralled or scared parents soon after the baby cries for breath. Yes - the invasion by products at rites of passage, at birth, the 1st day of school, sexual initiation, the wedding day -- such steps in a young life are besieged by marketing departments and their hyperventilating Mad Men.
These are precisely the points in a wiser culture where the seeds of imagination are planted – just the opposite of the controlling imagery of Disney. That company’s cute-faced rats and dogs and princesses have the assignment of leaving their young audiences gurgling in a state of amazed consumption. Hopefully for the corporations, a life of shopping has begun. Make that: the shopping that is mistaken for freedom.
When will we make the connection between official American violence and the free-for-all of our products? The cause and effect is hidden under labored arguments of freedom of choice, and the legal personhood of corporations. It is uprisings in northern Africa and the Arabian peninsula (and in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana) that lead us to believe that the absurd primacy of products can be stopped.
We ought to keep Disney out of the baby nursery, of course, and keep Nike out of the high school locker-rooms. Don’t allow sexed-up war-game videos to hypnotize kids, some of whom then go on to get killed in the U. S. Army sequel to their childhood games. So many young people are in the pipeline of products-to-war, pixels-to-bullets – with the corporations making money on both ends of that tragic journey.
We are rewarded with our American Dream of convenience and entertainment – but the violence of our market will turn on us as it did on Mubarak and Qaddafi. The imitation of democracy is the same as the imitation of national heroism – see photos and statues of generals on horse-back so common to these semi-comic dictators. Both imitating systems fall when their citizens remember the sensation of freedom. And freedom is hard to forget.
As Hilary Clinton pontificates about the “Free West,” she must feel a certain uneasiness. She served on the Wal-mart board, and takes Wall Street cash for campaigns. She must fear that we recall actual freedom, that risky, original feeling. We don’t have to Google it. As we grow up, we don’t need a corporate force making our choices. We are alone with the mystery of life and we are members of a human community experiencing the same amazing journey. We have the DNA of freedom in our souls.
(The Church of Earthalujah! This Sunday, 7:30 EST, Theatre 80, New York City)