Disaster Capitalism

Such a synchromesh trip I had yesterday from England to the US of A that we rounded the corner onto the bridge in my hometown just as darkness fell, in time to see the full fireworks display – the July 4th symbol of our bid for freedom from the oppressive boot of the British – exploding over the harbor.  Now, I am a total kid for fireworks – what an invention! To see the streaking reds and greens reflected in the water, and watching the gold coins fall through the sky under spiraling moths of white flame, the thumping finale a riot of colour.

Anyone who knows me well or knows me for a long time knows I am a positive person, an optimist with a similarly kid-like gung-ho patriotism for the possibility that is America.  Our charter documents are pinnacle statements of 18th century Enlightenment philosophy, imitated but unequaled since by any burgeoning country.  Despite our bad history with slavery and genocide of the indigenous, the promise of what the USA could be has held me since I first watched these displays growing up in Eisenhower’s fifties.  Even during the protests of Nixon’s sixties and beyond, it was America improved I sought, and not America dismantled.  I was incorrectly labeled a ‘Communist outside agitator’; my agitation was very much an internal matter: “America, live up to your constitutional principles.”  The Beatles said it: “If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow…” Even now, I have zero interest in promoting any –ism.

Those who know me more recently will be forgiven for their surprise at the above paragraph, given how often I express my rage, frustration, and discouragement at the Wal-Mart cheap, Burger King fat, robot-drone warmonger we have become.  We compare unfavourably in so many ways to the old European colonial powers, reborn after World War II as vibrant social democracies.  We compare unfavourably to Japan and even many developing countries have got it more together in terms of their ‘social engagement’.  We have become a bloated bully, unable to protect the Gulf of Mexico or the Gulf of Aden, a teetering empire on the edge of decline, a Rome waiting for the Visigoths, regardless (alas, we voted last time with such hope) of who is president.

In the jaded atmosphere of the early 21st century, I am as ready as the next to believe the worst (aren’t these Russian spies and Parliamentary scandals fun?), but that does not extend to grand conspiracy theories.  I don’t know how 9/11 went down, but while the idea of the Freemasons or aliens or the Trilateral Commission or the Illuminati running things behind the scenes has an easy appeal it does not really stand up to scrutiny – the forces of history are too great and the twists of external events too capricious for a small group to exert such total control for so long without being exposed, or so I believed.

But I have come as close as I care to in these last days: my daughter, disturbed by my defense of free markets in one of our free-wheeling sociopolitical discussions, handed me The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein (http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine) to take with me to England.  Jesus, what a gob-smacking belly punch of a book!  Trenchant writing and undeniable research chart the pathway back from the Keynesian bargain of the New Deal to the horror of Afghanistan and Iraq and America’s helplessness in the face of its own tromping feet.  The book brilliantly weaves and parallels the themes of individual torture and its effects, to similar principles applied to whole national economies and cultures.

Individual torture such as electroshock therapy and the other methods derived from the 50’s research breaks down personality structure, erases memory, and causes regression.  (Klein’s recounting of this line of ‘research’ is fascinating in itself, but she doubles down and applies it in a much larger context:)  Shock therapies to economies do the same to cultures.  This realization by followers of the Chicago School of Economics has allowed a wholesale but largely un-noticed shift in our operating philosophies, our levers of power, and the results for the happy few on the inside and the unhappy many on the outside.

Misty’s mum Giselle is involved with trauma work for individuals, bringing them back from the confusion and disorientation that overwhelming events visit upon the body.  This book documents the deliberate application of shock and overwhelming events to societies in a blatant attempt to remake them.

Starting from the CIA-inspired coups of the democratically elected Mossadegh, replaced with the brutal Shah of Iran, leading directly to the Iranian revolution and our current set of troubles there.  The second, the assassination of Salvador Allende in Chile, led to a ‘shock therapy’ on Chile’s economy and society in the form of American-supported Augusto Pinochet, whose reign of terror provided the first ‘blank slate’ for the Friedman theory of untrammeled markets.

Except of course in practice they are not free or un-manipulated at all (as I would argue back to Misty, in defense not of Friedmanism but of the evolutionary nature of truly free market forces); the theories are simply a front for the feudal use of power by trans-national companies like United Fruit, Monsanto, Bechtel, Halliburton, and other war profiteers.  Even war itself has become a profitable industry, as has health care, the post office, the transport systems – so many resources, that should be the world’s ‘commons’ belonging to the larger community, have instead been sold off cheaply to industry under the cover of whatever crisis comes next in the name of security and free markets, but with anything but free market intentions.

We were shocked by 9/11 – and in our numb, confused, and regressed state we accepted homeland security, suspension of habeus corpus, Blackwater’s private army, and – blacker than that, a repudiation of all our principles – torture in our name.  With 9/11, Katrina, and now the BP oil spill, the largest and most connected companies are cleaning up – not the oil, but the money – and making it ever harder for the populace to escape the feudal control of these robber barons.  And the American people sit around waving tea bags against Obama’s ‘socialism’ – it is nonsense, it is misdirection, and we should be ashamed of what is being done this minute with our tacit and silent approval.

The Depression of the 1930’s was supposed to mark the end of laissez-faire, unregulated money men with a free hand.  We don’t remember, except for those of my parents’ age, how much suffering came about then.  The New Deal regulated banks and industries and forges an uneasy truce between a strong government providing the river banks for relatively free enterprise to flow within.  Starting with these foreign experiments under Eisenhower and Kennedy, rising to more ambitious schemes through Reagan and Clinton, the shock doctrine has finally come home from 2001 on.  This is fascism, pure and not so simple: the binding together of industry and government in a way not even envisioned by Eisenhower in his closing, warning speech about the military-industrial complex.

The reforms of health care and finance contemplated by Obama tinker at the edges of a machine inexorably designed to make the rich richer and the middle class and poor more confused and impotent.  According to Klein’s analysis, it is working out quite well for them so far.  It will end, as the Shah did, in revolution, but there will be hard times before and after such an event – hard, hard times of starvation and war.

She has films as well as this brilliant book, check out the websites or read it and weep.  I am surprised that no one has shot her or shut her up yet, because this is truth to power.  It is a sobering wake-up call, a hard headed look at what we have done, neither tin-foil hat frenzied nor liberal anti-business ranting.  The USA took a definite turn on the road of history, pretty much unnoticed by its overfed, under-educated, and now cowed populace.  If we do not notice and correct our wrong turn, we and most others on our planet are toast for a long Kali Yuga.

Thanks, Misty

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5 Responses to “Disaster Capitalism”

  1. Lawrence A. Nowell Says:

    The “CONGRESSIONAL” Military Industrial Complex
    is what Eisenhower stated. But the words of Eisenhower were “edited”.

    There is “NO” solution. There isn’t any solution because you will remember we the people:

    Elected the Democratic Congress to stop the Iraq war, and instead the Democrats “FUNDED/Voted for”: “MORE” MONEY FOR THE Iraq war.

    Then we elected Obama, and Obama put 30,000 “MORE” troops into Afghanistan (and he said he would even “before” the election, but there was no other choice for us, unless we wanted to vote for CAIN (McCain) and be BUSHwacked again by the Republicans).

    It does “NOT” matter who you elect. The proof is right in front of your eyes. Will your believe your eyes,

    or are you going to vote again for the next lying Politician. There is “NO” solution, until Christ/Yeshua returns.

    1 Samuel 8:10
    Because you did not want God to be your King:
    “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots.[Armies]
    12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest {Corporate Farms],
    and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots [Military Industrial Complex].
    13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. [Chain Wal-Mart, chain Restaurants and chain fast food].
    14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants [To his Corporations].
    15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants [Kickbacks to Politicians, and bonus wages of 1.7 Billion to Stephen Hemsley alone].
    16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. [Gas pump Federal, State, and local government taxes (not including county and local taxes) accounted for about 14% of the national average retail price of regular gasoline in April 2010]
    17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. [Taxes of 30 percent]

    18 When that day comes [2010-2018], you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

    You “want” Christ return to be your King on Earth, “because”:

    There will be “NO” solution until Christ/Yeshua returns and is King of the earth in 2018. In the meantime:
    90% of us will be killed in the Corporation sponsored upcoming Corporation Beast Powers’ World wars.

    Wars that will go on until Christ/Yeshua arrives. If Christ/Yeshua did not return as King of Kings all 100% of us will be dead. Matthew 24:22
    http://www.ForTheNations.com The Script has already been written.

    Not 1 of man’s leaders can stop the Corporations/Beasts, because like Lincoln and Kennedy, if they tried to buck the Corporations they will be killed.
    Lincoln and Kennedy both tried to print our own greenbacks/$ to take the power away from the BankSTERS, and Corporations, and both were assassinated. Both Nixon and Clinton balanced the USA Budget, and both were impeached. No man can solve our problems.

    There is “NO” solution until Christ/Yeshua rules the earth in 2018.

    Your only solution is to “OBEY” every jot of God [“ONLY” from http://www.forthenations.com ], so that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things. Luke 21:36.

  2. Joe Lubow Says:

    In this world of instant information, I still relish two hand delivered paper publications each week. The NY Times on Sunday – and The Nation whatever day it happens to arrive in my mailbox. Naomi Klein’s columns are always brilliant, if depressing. I think Disaster Capitalism has been out a few years now; thanks Tom, for the reminder that I want to read it.

    And anyone looking for some real investigative journalism combined with thoughtful editorializing about the economy from someone who really takes a systems theory approach to her work (whether she knows it or not, though she probably does) can start here: http://www.thenation.com/authors/naomi-klein

  3. Tomyers Says:

    Joe – for me it’s the New Yorker and Scientific American – that’s about all i can find time to read – other then the NYT crossword, a sacrosanct brain exercise.

    Lawrence – thanks for your comment. Being more of a secular humanist than a Christian per se (though i respect anyone’s struggle with God, that glorious bastard), I can certainly see we are in for hard times, but so many generations have seen themselves as the End Times, and yet we keep muddling through to the next stage. Though we cannot rule it out, the wish for Yeshua to return seems a less sure bet to me than taking on our own stewardship of the planet from these reckless and illiberal profiteers.

  4. Linda Harmon Says:

    Tom,
    Being stewards of the planet in an active and no-nonsense way would mean tapping into the spiritual nature of our existence, no matter by which name you wish to call it. Being stewards of the planet would require setting aside immediate gains to be had from any of our ventures and require us to think of the consequences of our choices seven generations down the road. Spirit is not to be found somewhere outside of us; Spirit is indwelling and is crying out for us to remember what we already know — when we drop into the core during KMI, what else are we truly contacting but spirit or wounded spirit woven into our flesh?? We need to learn how to listen before we act.

  5. mistralmyers Says:

    Dear All,

    I don’t mean to offend, but…these arguments are quite solidly about HUMANS, not about God or any other metaphysical influence of any sort. The argument made by Klein concerns solely the actions of humans, the decisions of humans, the struggle between, against, and around humans, human characteristics that we all share, and many that we would rather not, the interaction of power (and the annoyance of not having any), what divides us, what joins us, and our relationships to one another.

    Of course, that is a rather large brush-stroke for such a detailed and pointed piece of work, but I think it is important to highlight the fact that this book–indeed, this argument in general, whoever makes it–is a reminder that our societal ailments are of our own making: HUMANS need to take responsibility for their actions, for their misdeeds, and for their behavior. It is up to US to change ourselves, and in doing so help to change society, not leave it up to the Fates, or God, or Allah, or whomever. These figures, or whatever power fits into your personal belief system is meant to be a GUIDE, not a scapegoat.

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