Sunday, August 10, 2008

Disaster Capitalism - Naomi Klein on Big Ideas

Naomi Klein spoke on Big Ideas (TVO) in January and I was alerted by a reader to this speech. Klein builds a flaming argument against Capitalism for her Canadian audience, pointing to the neighbor south as where it all happens first and the images are at the ugliest. She also wrote a book about this: The Shock Doctrine; the rise of disaster capitalism.

Look at the Katrina disaster. It just so happened she was in the disaster area and had to be taken to a hospital and in stead of finding herself in an over-crowded, messy public place, she woke up in a crisp and empty private clinic. This shows her point: capitalism divides the world in the haves and the have-nots. And the have-nots have no access to normal services. This is not just true during disaster, this is true all the time.

I'd like to add, this has always been true throughout history, capitalist societies or not. Being richer means being healthier, safer, more certain regarding the future and so on. Richer people can more easily get out of harms way and if they didn't manage to do so, they have the means to recover faster and more completely.

The point is: Disaster Capitalism has no problem with that. The ideology of the US is that you should invest in the proper means to protect yourself and if you didn't then that is your problem - it is not a public issue. And it goes further: disaster, is not a problem, it is a business opportunity. It allows for new commercial possibilities. Klein shows how this regime is closely intertwined with fear. We are ready to buy away our fears, but receive an ugly society in the bargain. She cries out to stop. She begs her audience not to let this happen in Canada.

The lecture is very invigorating, but the thought remains: although this is important, how much of this is accusing what has always been so in the history of mankind.

Previously on Big Ideas:
The bad news about good work,

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