Naomi Klein shocks readers with doctrine

No Logo author speaks about rise of disaster capitalism

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Naomi Klein

Jonas Hrebeniuk

WE COULDN'T FIND A PHOTO OF NAOMI KLEIN KICKING THE CRAP OUT OF WAL-MART, SO THIS WILL HAVE TO DO. The author lectured on the Shock Doctrine this past Monday and ended with an intense short film by Children of Men director Alfonso Cuaron.

Anyone who knows author and journalist Naomi Klein can attest to her thirst for the truth.

As a Toronto youth, she was a self-proclaimed “mall rat” obsessed with labels and brands; at the age of 30, she became author of the anti-corporate document No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, a book that spawned protests against the World Bank, drew attention to unjust sweatshop practices and inspired a new outlook for our generation.

Klein appeared at Althouse College on Monday to speak about her recent book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, as part of Autumn Writes " a series presenting influential authors discussing their works.

Klein began her speech by laying out the foundations of her novel, the “three intersecting forms of shock,” and how these ideologies relate to major shifts in the global economy. Her central thesis states that the advance of right-wing market fundamentalism must be pre-empted by some shocking event. Klein clarifies, “[This] lays the groundwork that makes the idea of economic reform more palatable.”

She argues in a time of shock, such as Sept. 11 or Hurricane Katrina, people adopt a state of panic and look to leaders as a surrogate “father figure.” The regression of a population to a childlike state allows leaders more flexibility to use a crisis to push through political reform that may not be democratically chosen.

From market interests taking over the Iraqi green zone to the privatization of social institutions in the rebuilding of New Orleans’ infrastructure, Klein pointed out in a concise, often harsh, manner the realities of the shock doctrine in our world today.

Klein put her idea into context by referencing the Oct. 14 taser-induced death of Robert Dziekanski at a Vancouver airport. She noted that this occurrence, which would have been more at home in a U.S. airport or lecture hall, negatively transformed the global view of Canada from an accepting, philanthropic nation to one of irrational action and prejudice.

Klein informed the audience that in 1989, Poland went through a heavy economic shock: 40 per cent of young workers were left jobless due to financial reform policies, creating a permanent, discarded underclass of unemployed individuals. As one of the rejected workers, Dziekanski decided to follow his mother to Canada for a new opportunity and, 10 hours after arriving, died in a state of shock.

Klein’s point in recounting this tale was that the threat of terrorism, in any foreign form, has been rendered a permanent shock, giving allowance for drastic measures, such as taser use, to be pulled up from a last resort to an immediate measure.

“There isn’t enough normal to go around,” Klein reflects on this global outlook. “So we must fortress our borders ... when immigrant and terrorist boundaries are becoming blurred.”

Despite painting a bleak picture of a dystopic globalized future, Klein hopes if shock events can be recognized, rational outlooks can overtake the power these events have to render a population helpless.

Her book is not only a telling historical study, but also gives advice on how readers can take action against unjust government reforms when a shock occurs.

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