Saturday, October 30, 2010

Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine...

On rare occasions, if we are very lucky, we can stumble onto a book that shapes the way we view the world.  I think of them as deeply moral books.  I’m not referring to a religious tract or a self-help book, which are intended to change your life or at least your attitude toward living.  I mean something different.  
No, I’m referring to a book such as Jonathan Schell’s Fate of the Earth, whose prose led us into the reality of a horror-filled world of thermonuclear war.  Schell’s words still echo in my head when I hear wingnut pundits urging a nuclear wipe-out of Iran’s nuclear facility or North Korea’s nuclear laboratories.  Schell schooled my generation and his words rang with a deep humanist morality.  They became part of the horror with which we viewed nuclear war and those words remain in our bones and hearts and minds.
There is another, more recent book that is as important and I hope will inform as many people as the Fate of the Earth did.  The book is Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
Wikipedia summarizes the book :[Here]
The book argues that the free market policies of Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman have risen to prominence in some countries because they were pushed through while the citizens were reacting to disasters or upheavals. It is implied that some man-made crises, such as the Falklands war, may have been created with the intention of being able to push through these unpopular reforms in their wake.
Klein begins with a description of the development of brutal electroshock therapy that was developed by psychiatrist Dr. Ewen Cameron and the CIA to regress patients into fetal infancy with the intention of being able to remake their personalities.  The first part, the destruction, was successful and the latter, the rebuilding, was a hideous failure. 
She then introduces Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of Economics with its belief in world-wide free markets and less regulation than existed prior to the New Deal.  Proponents of this market model noticed that the Friedman model was often easier to implement when the country had encountered a shock--of war, revolution, or natural catastrophe.  (Should we add a sudden recession?)
Klein takes the reader through the brutal events in Chile under Pinochet with torture and “disappearances” used to shock the population into compliance while Pinochet and his “Chicago Boys,” (the economists trained under Friedman), dismantled the reforms instituted by the Socialist President Savador Allende.  She also describes how Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher used the  Faulkland War for milder reform. 
Klein analyzes the same process in Poland, Russia, South Africa and then the financial crises in Asia.  She moves on to Iraq and describes in detail how deregulation and privatization worked in Iraq where the military “Shock and Awe” was quickly followed by an economic “shock and awe” under the American occupation led by the Bush Administration and the occupation authority.
Along the way Klein informs us about the realities of a privatized, free market world with powerful international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank promoting much of the ideology. 
In the present election storm and with increasing pressure from private billionaires and corporations to privatize and enfeeble our public institutions, Klein’s analysis must be understood.  Huge money is being expended to gloss over the ideological thrust of the present conservative movement. 
Naomi Klein thus leads us to what will probably be the next “Good Fight,” the fight to save our nation’s soul.  
Yes, Klein has given us a fine moral book.  We must not overlook her warnings...

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