The (Non) Shock Doctrine

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

If you haven’t discerned by now, I finished Naomi Klein’s book.  I’m proud to say that I read it in two days. Seriously. It has a million and a half pages, although I might have counted a few twice. Here a few bullets to ease you into my world of writing about all things worst and “The Shock Doctrine”.

• Wow.

• A Wonderful, meticulously researched book.

• A great new take on the issue and/or question of the result of twentieth century mixing of all-things-politics and all-things-economic.

• Very wordy and sometimes repetitive but well structured and extremely informative.

• I wish the author would have put a bit more from her own head (or thoughts) into this book. The constant barrage of well-researched and foot-noted/end-noted information was at times distracting – but in the end its what saved the book for me. To some, so much fact-checking might be distracting but at least you can find solace in that this book is not an academic textbook, although it feels like one. Perhaps that’s more reason to think twice about why this book (to me) was saved by the foot-notes.

• Although she is (or claims to be) a journalist, more often than not, while reading this, I hoped she would/could turn into a philosopher or, perhaps, at the least, a political scientist with a tendency to über dramatize. The book could use a lot more touchy-feelie like what she acieved with her previous book “No Logo.” With that in mind, I did find myself tearing up a bit while reading the chapters about Thailand and New Orleans and even those chapters about Pinochet.

• At the risk of being repetative, this book is missing the thing that “No Logo” had. No Logo, by way of a very simple premise, was a wonderfully creative way of questioning corporatism in the west and especially in The United Mistakes of American’t. To me, that simple premise was poetic in No Logo. Unfortunately, there’s nothing poetic about The Shock Doctrine and there is really no simple premise to this new book – even though Ms. Klein sells it with a great blurp/blurb at the cost of a what many people consider a great economist – Milton Friedman.

• What this book delivers is Naomi Klein and her well researched fact after a fact after fact on the ills of bad capitalism and bad politics.

• Professionalism = Obedience.

• Career = Lifestyle

• Survival = Consumer

 

I feel it necessary, due to the political and wing-nut positions that underly The Shock Doctrine, my responsibility to inform you, dear worst-reader, of my political and worldly convictions – or at least a small part of them. And keep in mind, this is no way a “coming out”. First. I’m a capitalist. Second. Capitalism is not a political system and a democratic society should not rely on it for either managing government or creating policy. Capitalism must never be in front of individual liberty; it must be subordinate to it. The problems rational people face today is that capitalism has gone awry and that is coinciding very conveniently with politics doing the same. Some people attribute this very acute problem to money and how elected officials acquire money to get elected. I do not make that connection – alone. For me, the problem of politics and it now being in the hands of capitalism is that voters have long since jumped on the apathy wagon and are incapable of getting off it. Hence, by default, there is no place for rational people to make important decisions regarding government policies. Here we have the quagmire of survival based on consuming – you know, the chestnut Ronald Reagan opened during his reign. Unfortunately Naomi Klein is very good at pointing fingers regarding capitalism, but that’s about all she does.

Now get this. The biggest problem with The Shock Doctrine is that it focuses too much on criticizing something that doesn’t really exist and the rest of the time it tries to create a bunch of bogeymen. Too often Naomi Klein comes across as someone with a vendetta and by doing so gets lost. This is the deep trap that most leftists fall in these days. For example. Did the west do bad things in South America? You betcha! Did the United Mistakes manipulate South East Asia and thereby directly cause the slaughter in East Timor? Uhhhhh… Yep. How did Saddam get WMDs? The questions go on and on. And the answers are all the same. But. We are not just the champions of multiple choice tests issued by those who can see only one color or pattern or frame. Again. Klein wants to criticize capitalism alone and yet she never once even manages a peep about what to replace it with. Indeed. I know what it’s like to cut something down and never make something grow.

Focused as she is, Naomi Klein pretty much misses her chance to nail capitalism as it’s being exploited at the beginning of this new century. She even fails to address the “politics” or the idear of participatory democracy and how that has kinda taken advantage of capitalism. She then also misses any chance of providing some insight into how to deal with all the bogeymen that she puts on various pedestals. The one thing that Ms. Klein gets right is her referencing twentieth century political and economic antics and how that has enabled and fostered totalitarian corporatism. But she doesn’t quite put it that way. I would think that most people who choose to read this book already know about the demon of corporatism – which, ironically, is a term I think she coined – at least for a certain generation – by writing a book that to me was ground breaking: “No Logo”.

The Shock Doctrine would have been better served if she would have continued where No Logo left off. I kind of miss her rebel with a cause attitude which was all over ”No Logo”. Instead, she gives us/you fact after fact after fact about bad politics and worse capitalism – most of the fun of which is in her footnotes – which only failed writers with nothing better to do will actually read. Only at the end of the book does she allude to the idea that something needs to be done to get this system-gone-awry back on a somewhat more (can I use this word?) egalitarian track. But then the book just ends. I guess she ran out of facts – or footnotes.

Now get this. While reading this book I was completely withdrawn from all things Orwellian. Seriously. That says a lot. Orwell is usually with me 22×7 or when I have a book in my face. Ever since I became an expatriate, living in the old country that so motivated Orwell to come up with Big Brother, utopia has held a special place in each deep thought I’ve had. Even though you couldn’t tell by looking at me, I have a lot of deep thoughts during the day. Yet Naomi Klein made me take a break from Orwell. After reading two of her books and a few articles I started to wonder how Klein made no connection to George Orwell in her various criticisms of e.g. welfare capitalism. But then again, that might not be such a bad thing. I’m not sure if a lot of people could handle Orwell and Klein. What else then is she supposed to do with all this research if not dwell on the idear of dystopia?

I think I have answer. The Shock Doctrine seems to pander to overly ambitious PhD theses writers in either the humanities or social sciences or it attempts to bridge the gap that is college educated-idiocracy that makes-up the demographically profitable side of Pareto’s Principle (aka the 80/20 rule) in all this consumer chaos. And, yes, ultimately, I believe that it is the college educated that are the ones making things so bad in this world. Remember, if you are one of the few that actually manage to get a college education and then, on top of that, manage to get a ”career”, what else can you do with your life but… Shut the F-up and buy things and be your own narcotic? But Klein doesn’t even go there.

Here a quote from a letter from Aldous Huxley to George Orwell in 1949 regarding 1984. Huxley and Orwell had it down back then and their thoughts should have served as seeds for Ms. Klein and all the idiot careerist college grads that read The Shock Doctrine and then think, “Yeah, she’s right and then go back to their comfort- zone, status-quo corporate careers being automaton lemmings.

”Within the next generation (the baby boomers!) I believe that the worlds leaders will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient as instruments of government then clubs and prisons, and that the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into their servitude as by flogging them and kicking them into obedience.”

I hate to say this because it is very pretentious of me, but, what the heck: I have the feeling that Ms. Klein is out of her league and might have rushed her new book to print. Dont get me wrong. I enjoyed reading it even though I’m aware of most the stuff she writes about. Ms. Klein’s research is impeccable and extremely useful. But as a book that is supposed to have a narrative, she misses the boat. There is only so much you can do retelling the news.

So. Where’s the poetry? It’s lost.

For Aldus Huxley in 1949 to suggest people in the future will earn their living in the realm of corporate servitude is what I mean when I say that Ms. Klein lacks anything poetic in this very large work of research. I heard in an interview with her that she lived for a year in Argentina as part of her quest to research/write this book. Then came the Iraq war. She said in the interview that she got side-tracked and continued her research in Iraq. If she was in Argentina to research the negativity of fundamentalist capitalism from Milton Friedman (aka Bogeyman #1) and the so-called Chicago School and all it did in South America, well, yeah, I guess she really did get side-tracked by continuing her work/research in Iraq. I think she gets lost in one mess-a-potamia ( South America) and then gets lost in another mess-a-potamia (Iraq) and the key word is lost.

Are all things lost? Beyond the geo-political aspect of Ms. Klein’s critical work she has one other problem. To me she blatantly affronts Milton Friedman and numerous others. In fact, she seems almost obsessed with bogeymen. Friedman does not deserve so much of Ms. Kleins attention in this book – unless she’s trying to attack academia – which I wish she would as that might just give this book a narrative. Also. Even if Donald (Bogeyman #2) Rumsfeld was schooled by Friedman you ultimately can’t blame the teacher for what the student does. Friedman was either a good teacher or a bad teacher – he cannot be anything more. (But thank goodness he’s gone!) In fact, of all the nation-state evil deeds done in (recent) history and of all the bogeymen we know about, I’m not aware of anyone trying to condemn their teachers. Who taught Nixon? Who taught Kissinger? Heck, who taught Mother Theresa? It just doesn’t make sense.

Since Friedman has entered this arena, let me say this in that special pretentious way that only I can. I do not like Milton Friedman. In fact, I think he’s a cruel joke. I first heard of Friedman when that dimwit politician Ronald Reagan used to carry around “Capitalism and Freedom”. I have read Friedman’s book, in fact I’ve read it twice in a span of fifteen years. This is what I have to say about this book and almost everything Friedman stands for. The negative impact of Friedman-ism (or the Chicago School), especially on the baby-boomer generation, can be compared to measuring radioactive fallout and half-life. History will have its way with Friedman and the pseudo-fascism that he’s enabled in the name of freedom and capitalism. But. As I calm myself and recall what it took to get me to re-read his infamous book, I have to admit that, given a second thought or two, there are a few things/idears that Friedman came up with that might not be so inherently evil. I won’t get into that here, but if you’re interested in what it might entail, just read the first two chapters of Capitalism and Freedom and burn the rest.

One thing I’ve gathered over the years about Milton Friedman is that he believed in liberty – and even I’m not cynical enough to believe that his liberty was only about corporate liberty. Friedman’s problem – and what Naomi Klein fails to consider – was that he was an elite academic entrenched in theory. He was nothing but a fuckin school teacher who never earned a living from the/a ”free market” that he preached about. Maybe that in itself is worth criticizing – or laughing at. Either way, there is no reason for Naomi Klein to turn Friedman into 666. I went through American public schooling – and a bit of college (until Reagan made college impossible for me and millions of others from the low-middle-classes). Seriously. I had some pretty whacked-out teachers. I dont blame one of those teachers for all my failure today. Ok. I’ve rambled enough on that.

Klein spends too little time on issues like human behavior, collectivism, social ignorance, merit-less achievement, serfdom, or even modern media driven politics. These are all the things and more that will make up the end of Rome – I mean, American’t. Instead Klein likes torture and describing Sadistic behavior – which ain’t about to be expelled from man’s mind – no matter how many pages you write. She should spend at least a bit of time talking about the level of ignorance and stupidity that has become the American’t Way of Living – lived by American’ts. I just don’t see how it’s worthwhile to only blame the elites for American’t problems. Maybe next time Klein should spend more research time in rural redneck areas of American’t to figure out what’s really wrong with the globalized freakshow. Just figure out what makes all the morons tick and why/how they come to always vote against their own best interests. And then she can tell us how the elites laugh at the whole show.

I believe that liberty is something that has to be politically protected and obviously shielded from those who would take it away. It is a matter of inalienable rights – which some of us have heard mentioned in a relatively famous document, although the intention of such words in the past might not be the same today. I also believe that capitalism can co-exist with a participatory democratic system. The keyword being participatory. Noami Klein should have addressed what capitalism could be in her book instead of just dogging on it and showing her disdain for certain influential people. If she would have gone that route then we would hit it off because I think, well, she’s hot. Instead, the system she criticizes isn’t the problem, and I wonder if she’s ever going to address what the problem really is – she almost got it in No Logo. Even if you continually call it things like disaster capitalism or vulture capitalists, monetary whiplash, casino capitalism, great creative cauldron of capitalism, Friedman-ism, Chicago School Capitalism, etc, etc. None of that matters because you cant take it all out of the context of what is real in the world today. There is not just a fight of things evil or of things terroristic or trying to protect the environment or being social or saving the fucking whales. We are in a struggle of survival and that struggle is being sanctioned completely and utterly by SUV-driving ignorance in ALL aspects of humanity – by both rulers and followers who vote for their rulers.

Links:

 

Rant on.

-tgs-