Saturday, December 12, 2009

Naomi Klein: Shock Doctrine

This is ones of the most infuriating and educational books I've ever read. Naomi Klein is my new Michael Moore: I can't watch those movies because they're so over the top, hitting you in the head with something you believe in, over and over and over, until you almost don't believe. "Shock Doctrine" was great, eye-opening, and convincing, until it wasn't anymore. It started to feel like propaganda, in a Moore-esque way. I don't know if I'd feel the same about "No Logo" if I re-read it, because I remember that as being one of my favorite books.

So, Klein's point is well taken, and new to me. There's this dude, Milton Friedman (not to be confused with Thomas Friedman, who's a New Follower of the Old Friedman, although he pretends to be something else), who pretty much invented this "Chicago School" and "Disaster Capitalism." Klein traces all kinds of historical versions of implementations of this "shock" capitalism, from Chile and Argentina to New Orleans and other places, especially Iraq. Basically, the Chicago kids (boys, to be exact) come in and create or work off of a disaster, which involves totally crushing the economy, disappearing and torturing dissidents, and then "rebuilding" by making the majority of the population dirt poor and giving all the previously nationalized or centralized infrastructure to megacompanies through no-contest contractors. These companies are usually closely tied to the head guys in the government (think Cheney/Halliburton) and so the ultra-rich get ultra-richer, and everyone else gets tortured, literally and figuratively. It's disgusting, and it's true (although I started to get skeptical in that Michael Moore way because it just seemed so... propaganda-ish). It's scary, and it's happening here, and it's not just George W.

Klein left a lot of obvious questions unanswered: what about NAFTA and CAFTA? That wasn't W, that was Clinton, and they were sort of obvious "free trade" (and the other Friedman, the "good" Friedman) examples of "shock doctrine". Where'd they go? No one talks about them anymore, but according to Klein, that's sort of the point- the population gets shocked into accepting egregious economic policies. And one point that REALLY bugged, and was left unanswered was the "whiteness" of the whole thing. So, these white guys from the Chicago School come in and tell these countries in South America, Asia, Iraq, and New Orleans what to do, how to do it, and how to make their companies richer, and Klein never discusses the racial implications of this, or, the racial backdrop of this. I'm just guessing that there was a whole lot of racial impetus for these programs, whether Klein cares to discuss it or not. She totally ignores the race/gender/class matrix, and writes a 600page book as if economics live in a (white) bubble. I expected more, and got more and more frustrated as the book wore on. The whole project is neo-colonial, yet was treated as if it was "purely" economic. Really?

The book raised a lot of questions, and when I thought about this blog post, I had lots more to say, lots more about Oakland and the current US economy, and how W got us here, along with his Friedman-esque ways. Then I went to Santacon and yeah, the blog went out the window. But Klein was successful in educating me, and in adjusting my views on what's REALLY going on behind the scenes. She did a lot, and not enough.