Naomi Klein’s wake-up call in Trumpy times
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.