Monday, June 26, 2017

Naomi Klein: The Need to Fiercely Protect Space to Dream and Plan for a Better World

 This is excerpted from the conclusion in Naomi Klein's latest book,
No Is Not Enough, a book I will recommend again and again.
Please go here:
We can work together to build a just and caring world.
- Molly

 The hour calls for optimism; we'll save pessimism for better times.
- Jean-Claude Servais

I opened this book with the word shock, since that's what a great many people said they felt on election day and after. But as I've reflected on the word during the past months of writing, I started to question its accuracy in this context.

A state of shock is produced when a story is ruptured, when we have no idea what's going on. But in so many ways explored in these pages, Trump is not a rupture at all, but rather the culmination - the logical end point - of a great many dangerous stories our culture has been telling for a very long time. That greed is good. That the market rules. That money is what matters in life. That white men are better than the rest. That the nature world is there for us to pillage. That the vulnerable deserve their fate and the one percent deserve their golden towers. That anything public or commonly held is sinister and not worth protecting. That we are surrounded by danger and should only look after our own.

Given these stories are, for many of us, part of the very air we breathe, Trump really shouldn't come as a shock. A billionaire president who boasts he can grab women by their genitals while calling Mexicans "rapists" and jeering at the disabled is the logical expression of a culture that grants indecent levels of impunity to the ultrarich, that is consumed with winner-take-all  competition, and that is grounded in dominance-based logic at every level. We should have been expecting him. And indeed, many of those most directly touched by the underbelly of Western racism and misogyny have been expecting him for a long time.

So maybe the emotion beneath what some have been calling shock is really, more accurately, horror. Specifically, the horror of recognition that we feel when we read effective dystopian fiction or watch good dystopian films. All the stories of this genre take current trends and follow them to their obvious conclusion - and then use that conclusion to hold up the mirror and ask: Do you like what you see? Do you really want to continue down this road? These nightmare futures are horrifying precisely because they're not shocking - not a break with our underlying stories, but their fulfillment. I've come to believe that we should see America's first nuclear-armed reality TV president in a similar fashion, as dystopian fiction come to life. Trump is a mirror, held up not only to the United States but to the world. If we don't like what we see - and throngs of us clearly do not - then it is clear what we need to do.

We have to question not only Trump but the stories that ineluctably produced him. It's not enough to superficially challenge him as an individual, foul and alarmingly ignorant though he may be. We have to confront the deep-seated trends that rewarded him and exalted him until he became the most powerful person in the world. The values that have been sold to us through reality TV, get-rich-quick books, billionaire saviors, philanthrocapitalists. The same values that have been playing out in destroyed safety nets, exploding prison numbers, normalized rape culture, democracy-destroying trade deals, rising seas and privatised disaster response, and in a world of Green Zones and Red Zones.

At the same time, perhaps it's okay - healthy even - for us to be just a little bit shocked by Trump. Here's why: those stories that produced him were always contested. There were always other stories, ones that insisted that money is not all that's valuable, and that all of our fates are intertwined with one another and with the health of the rest of the natural world. The forces Trump represents have always had to suppress those other, older, and self-evidently true stories, so that theirs could dominate against so much intuition and evidence.

The persistence of these other stories should remind us that, while Trump is the logical culmination of the current neoliberal system, the current neoliberal system is not the only logical culmination of the human story. Which is why part of our work now - a key part - is not just resistance. Not just saying no. We have to do that, of course. But we also need to fiercely protect some space to dream and plan for a better world. This isn't an indulgence. It's an essential part of how we defeat Trumpism.

- Naomi Klein
From No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock
Politics and Winning the World We Need 

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