Naomi Klein’s wake-up call in Trumpy times

Toronto Star - - OPINION - Heather Mal­lick hmallick@thes­tar.ca

What is to be done?

Naomi Klein must know. She wrote No Logo in 1999 about cor­po­rate brand­ing, and now we see a Trump pres­i­dency — a brand more than an of­fice — used to make pri­vate money out of elec­toral power. And then she wrote 2007’s The Shock Doc­trine about dis­as­ters used as shocks to the eco­nomic sys­tem that al­low pri­va­ti­za­tion and neo-lib­eral aus­ter­ity to sneak in when cit­i­zens are in no shape to fight back. Look at the world, fully shocked. Her new book, writ­ten in haste as be­fits our times, is No Is Not Enough, in­tended as a hand­book for those need­ing con­text on the Trump-di­rected catas­tro­phe, how it will evolve and what to do about it.

Ev­ery day with Don­ald Trump as U.S. pres­i­dent brings a new shock, some­times sev­eral, some from his tweets alone. There are too many to con­tend with. For ex­am­ple, one Fri­day, any­one con­cerned about the shoot­ing of politi­cians play­ing base­ball, or the Mueller in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Trump’s Rus­sian ties, would have been miss­ing cov­er­age of the com­ing Trump­care bill or the Cosby trial.

While this un­rolls, Trump is com­plain­ing about trade with Canada and mak­ing threats. We share the Great Lakes with Amer­i­cans. New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo is com­plain­ing about flood­ing caused by Canada, which it­self is suf­fer­ing floods, in­stead of work­ing with his Cana­dian coun­ter­parts on a 100-year plan on less­en­ing the ef­fects of cli­mate change that make floods in­evitable. It’s short-term thinking that will lead to long-term dis­as­ter. It’s as if he and Trump think there is no fu­ture.

Klein’s ar­gu­ment in a nut­shell is that Trump “is less an aber­ra­tion than a log­i­cal con­clu­sion — a pas­tiche of pretty much all the worst trends of the past half cen­tury:” hu­man life ranked by power which ex­cludes women and mi­nori­ties; dis­rup­tion as a way of life; the cor­po­rate takeover of the hu­man; the free mar­ket wag­ing war on the pub­lic good; the ter­ri­fy­ing gig econ­omy; the van­ish­ing of gov­ern­ment.

Ev­ery­where we turn, we are blocked. Cor­po­ra­tions have a wish list, she says. They are all be­ing granted.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral uni­verse is long, but it bends to­ward jus­tice,” but as Klein says sadly, it won’t work for the cli­mate cri­sis.

Neo-lib­er­al­ism is the ex­treme cap­i­tal­ism that be­came dom­i­nant in the 1980s un­der Rea­gan and Thatcher and is now the norm in many West­ern na­tions.

The U.S. is hy­per­ac­tively neo-lib­eral now, with many cit­i­zens trained to ap­prove of their rights be­ing di­min­ished.

Wit­ness the older, ru­ral Trump vot­ers who backed a pres­i­dent whose plans for health care might well kill them. This is the pas­siv­ity of the cit­i­zen adapt­ing to a mul­ti­plic­ity of shocks im­posed on them — in­dus­tries be­ing ex­ported, new tech­nol­ogy, a starved ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, poi­soned wa­ter, pri­vate af­flu­ence and pub­lic squalor, fire and flood — in a neo-lib­eral world.

The re­ward for North Amer­i­can jobs be­ing sent over­seas was stuff, lots of cheap, easy stuff. Your job se­cu­rity went up in smoke, your mort­gage pay­ment is shaky but your house is full of dodgy Chi­nese-made goods that make you feel like a win­ner.

Trump knows voter anger can be soothed by junk from Wal­mart. Let them have their toys. But the most per­ni­cious thing is the con­stant im­ages of the ul­tra-rich. Amer­i­cans don’t think they’re poor. They are told to think they’re not-rich-yet. They are poor.

Shocks like this caused the left to fal­ter. Af­ter 9/11, the antiglob­al­iza­tion move­ment drifted away. War in Afghanistan and Iraq stole fo­cus. Then came the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis, where the banks were bailed out but cit­i­zens weren’t. Shock was ap­plied, aus­ter­ity was pre­scribed and suf­fer­ing left peo­ple un­able to or­ga­nize and fight back.

By the way, the prob­lem isn’t the 1 per cent, it’s the up­per 20 per cent who are “pulling away” and pulling up the draw­bridge, econ­o­mist Richard Reeves says. The other 80 per cent need guid­ance from the left, which Klein pro­vides here. She pre­dicts Trump will start a war, prob­a­bly in the Mid­dle East.

But Klein has an an­swer. She of­fers many ex­am­ples of shock re­sis­tance, in Ar­gentina, in Spain, the U.S. founders of Black Lives Mat­ter, the push­back from U.S. sci­en­tists, the Women’s March in Wash­ing­ton.

She talks about in­ter­sec­tional agen­das, mean­ing dis­parate groups find­ing com­mon ground. And she again of­fers the Leap Man­i­festo, which seems more ap­peal­ing each day. Buy No Is Not Enough and let Klein make her case.

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