Thought-provoking since 2015

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Conglomerate Imperialism: The Enemy to Indigenous Liberation

Conglomerate Imperialism: The Enemy to Indigenous Liberation

Imperialism and Capitalism are two power structures that have dispossessed Indigenous peoples around the globe, and continues to do so. My #SchemesBecomeSchema series has focused on the psychology, marketing strategy and advertising campaigns that employ anti Indigenous and anti Black paradigms to normalize corporate expansion, while also selling products steeping in atrocities like labor exploitation and resource extraction. Here, I will expand more upon the aspect of global corporate exploitation at its source.

What is Conglomerate Imperialism? Conglomerate Imperialism is a term I coined, to describe the capitalistic and imperialistic violence experienced globally by Indigenous peoples and inflicted by corporate giants.  Breaking down meanings in the definition below may provide more understanding.  (Also, see definitions for media conglomerate and media imperialism for other further insights as to how branding can fit with media.)

Conglomerate is defined by google as " a number of different things or parts that are put or grouped together to form a whole but remain distinct entities." In other words, a corporate giant, one that rules over various brands or a combination of various brands under the same umbrella.  During my research about water privatization in Montana by rich elite media conglomerates, it was then I realized that we needed a term to define the reach of corporations, as well as describing the elite network in which these corporations sustain their power. If one "follows the money" and looks into the origins of brands and sponsorship they would find that there are corporate giants that own many brands.  An example of this is shown in the infographic below.

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This complex web of exploitation makes collective efforts to "boycott" brands futile. Corporate Giants linked to unimaginable amounts of wealth own all the companies that all people rely on. Unless one is making an active effort to buy local its very difficult to divest from these corporations. While it does seem impossible to confront these giants hoarding the world's wealth, there are Indigenous led movements that have been countering the economic power ties such as #DivestTheGlobe and #MazaSkaTalks. Both started in response to banks sponsoring violence against Indigenous peoples like the Dakota Access Pipeline.

 Imperialism:  Is defined by google as: A policy of extending a country's power and influence through diplomacy or military force. 

Imperialism subject matter can be a bit intimidating for individuals that are new to social justice discourse. Even when I was a Native college student I heard people say this term, but never really understood what it meant. It wasn't until I took a class which featured histories of global conquest that I was exposed to the global lens of Indigenous resistance. One day, after realizing I couldn't really state distinctions between "colonialism" and "imperialism,” I knew I had more learning to do. Since then, the ideal of "military force" is more succinct when exposing ongoing militarized violence against Indigenous peoples. Some contemporary examples of this that people may be more familiar with was the militarized violence at Standing Rock and the Unist'ot'en Camp. In so many ways militarized violence is paired with the United States’ quest for resources to exploit or land to occupy.

The problem with the lack of interrogation of these systems of power is that many people view colonialism and imperialism as a projection of the past, versus its role in maintaining colonialism and capitalism. To further express this connection between capitalism harming Indigenous peoples worldwide, I will expand upon other regions outside the United States in which Indigenous people's have been exploited and killed for means of protecting these violent systems.

This video explains the dangers Indigenous Activists are facing in the Honduras for their environmental activism.

The next source explains the connection between the increase in violence, Indigenous displacement by industrialization, and US sanctioned schemes of criminalizing Indigenous peoples.

The study found that “as a result, peasant communities are "increasingly facing forced evictions" while the individuals and organizations that voice opposition are met with "violence, intimidation, and criminalization,"—such as in the case of Cáceres, who was murdered by Honduran military officials and employees of the hydroelectric dam project that she opposed.  

Honduras, has been a spotlighted conversation with the violence that has been happening at the border, but even that violence is tied to the conglomerate imperialism, which generated wealth for the United States.

 As historian Walter LaFeber writes in “Inevitable Revolutions: The United States in Central America,” American companies “built railroads, established their own banking systems, and bribed government officials at a dizzying pace.” As a result, the Caribbean coast “became a foreign-controlled enclave that systematically swung the whole of Honduras into a one-crop economy whose wealth was carried off to New Orleans, New York, and later Boston.”

On this twitter thread I expanded upon my frustrations of the link between criminalization and savage tropes, as well as the irony of individuals invested in those industries decrying the violence at the border.

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While I don’t like to focus on the Asylum aspect (because it implies the need for respectability to see one as a human being), I did reference it as way of expanding upon the rates of domestic violence and femicide that Indigenous women have been experiencing globally for years. That violence only gets exacerbated by the borders put up by the United States, which radicalizes perpetrators of violence. And the continued dispossession of Indigenous peoples because of the occupation of the United States, creates conditions of scarcity and ultimately that leads to more disparities and violence.

As I’ve explained in my article for WearYourVoiceMag about #CancelYandy, the exploitation of Indigenous peoples through capitalistic industries, cannot be separated from efforts of Indigenous peoples for the reclamation of bodily autonomy and personhood, especially when the product being extracted is tied to violence to the environment or dehumanization of Indigenous peoples through dehumanizing savage tropes. And that goes without stating the obvious, that settler corporations and tourism industries occupying Indigenous territories from Turtle Island to Palestine are an encroachment upon Indigenous autonomy and sovereignty.

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In my essay, #SchemesBecomeSchema about Coca Cola, as well as discussed with @/HalfAtlanta on The Groundings Podcast. (You can also support Devyn Springer on Patreon as well here!) I touched on this aspect of militarized violence going hand in hand with Coke brand recognition steeped in xenophobic tropes of tourism and occupation, as well as the literal history in which Coca Cola expanded with the military for means of "boosting morale" for war.

The book "How to Read Donald Duck" was once made illegal because it exposed the US propaganda disseminated by Disney through the medium of comics to distort Chilean resistance. I often reference this book whenever people say "It’s just Disney" every time Indigenous peoples try to deconstruct colonizer paradigms featured in their productions and ongoing refusal to retire stereotypes. Contrary to popular opinion, Disney too is a conglomerate with a long history of exploiting Indigenous peoples.

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The book also places focus on of the aspect of wealth and Individualism furthered by corporate interest, which is inherently paradoxical to Indigenous kinship paradigms and traditional life ways. One can imagine how this would make capitalistic value systems easier to internalize.

Conditions of scarcity are created and exacerbated to assert United States Hegemony through corporate occupation.  

"It gives Disney effective power of penetration into the dependent countries because he offers individual foals at the expense of the collective needs." The American Dream is a culture code for many in the United States, one which cannot be achieved without stepping on others and becoming dependent on corporations — a pit fall that prominent activists have fallen into when speaking events are funded by Wells Fargo. Native people have criticized events like "The Gathering of Nations" for this same reason: pipeline sponsorships. But when one looks to the sponsors of various events, corporations are sponsors. It becomes obvious that scarcity cultivates the prosperity of the corporate elite and the disenfranchisement of the poor. In turn, corporations that control funding gate keep the access to social mobility for marginalized peoples.

Another exerpt from How To Read Donald duck expands upon this phenomena of established dependency and scarcity, created by conglomerates, like Disney and Coke. 

Another excerpt expands upon the history of economic dependency Chile had with the US because of exploitation, and due to this scarcity, the ways conglomerates inserted themselves. Soon the media was controlled by conglomerates like Pepsi.

I can’t help but think about the lack of representation for Indigenous peoples and how that plays into our dependency on conglomerates and the non profit industrial complex, one well known being Nike, which is highly criticized for labor exploitation abroad for their products. One key thing to emphasize is who is at the root of the scarcity and dependency? The colonizers who created the conditions in the first place. 

The next example shows how capitalism creates conditions of scarcity and inaccurate representations to make lower class populations dependent on corporate sponsored media platforms. This occurs in the United States as well.

Featured in the except above is the mention of Lone Ranger (The Apache people have denounced the Tonto stereotype) and the all around targeting of young audiences. This is an example of #childhoodindoctrination, the normalization and conditioning of colonizer paradigms in youth. We must remain vigilant to the attacks on children's psyches as well as the active shaping of social settler colonial constructs normalized in our society.

In emphasizing the recognition of the role that savage tropes have in global conglomerate imperialism, one can easily see how selling caricatures of Ndn people to Indigenous peoples abroad sets the tone of fetishization and the "exotic other." To challenge the popular rhetoric in which individuals put different struggles in a hierarchy ("we have larger issues to worry about") one must acknowledge that all of these "issues" are interconnected. Interrogating the anti Indigenous worldview that many Americans foster, would mean having a holistic approach to challenging these systems. Ultimately, these dynamics contribute to the internalization of colonizer paradigms by Indigenous peoples as well as Non Natives, only justifying the global violence of resource extraction, and global imperialism.

You can read more about the link between Coca Cola, Pepsi and the FBI in Chile's history as well. This is hard to ignore especially paired with the knowledge of Coke's expansion during WW2. (Which again I also referenced in my patreon about Coke imperialism.)

"All the companies of America have worked towards spreading the imperialism of America in all the other countries of the world. Pepsi and Coca Cola are considered two hands of the American Imperialism.”

We see many examples of conglomerate Imperialism, from Nestle privatizing water to Mcdonald's real estate. One thing is for sure, the lower class continues to get poorer and Indigenous peoples continue to face increased deaths due to militarized violence and the destruction of Indigenous lands and resources. Every marginalized person continues to face disparities and inequities created by the conditions of scarcity imposed by rich corporations and the Global Elite. Its time that anti capitalist "activists" and "scholars" get serious about incorporating Indigenous paradigms into their anti-capitalism praxis. We need Accomplices not Allies if we ever hope to envision a collective futurity not reliant on capitalist systems of power.

Here is a link to the  bibliography for this essay for my subscribed patrons. 

Vegan Activism and Anti-Indigeneity: Violating Indigenous Food Sovereignty

Vegan Activism and Anti-Indigeneity: Violating Indigenous Food Sovereignty