Friday, July 14, 2017

Naomi Klein: Divide and Conquer

Another powerful excerpt from Naomi Klein's new book, No Is Not Enough - a resource I highly recommend to all. Another world is possible! - Molly


"Naomi Klein is a critically important thought-leader in these perilous times, a necessary voice as a courageous movement of movements rises from the ashes of the last election cycle. No Is Not Enough tells a compelling story about where we are, how we got here, and what we should do now. The book is a genuine page-turner - highly engaging and provocative - and provides a fascinating lens through which we can view our current moment, connecting necessary dots, and outlining the challenge that lies ahead in clear terms that anyone can understand." - Michelle Alexander, author, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Divide and Conquer

In truth, nothing has helped more to build our present corporate dystopia than the persistent and systematic pitting of working-class whites against Blacks, citizens against migrants, men against women. White supremacy, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia have the elite's most potent defenses against genuine democracy. A divide-and-terrorize strategy, alongside ever more creative regulations that make it harder for many minorities to vote, is the only way to carry out a political and economic agenda that benefits such a narrow portion of the population.

We also know from history that white supremacist and fascist movements - though they ma always burn in the background - are far more likely to turn to wildfires during periods of sustained economic hardship and national decline. That is the lesson of Weimar Germany, which - ravaged by war and humiliated by punishing economic sanctions - became ripe for Nazism. That warning was supposed to have echoed through the ages.

After the Holocaust, the world came together to try to create conditions that would prevent genocidal logic from ever again taking hold. It was this, combined with significant pressure from below, that formed the rationale for generous social programs throughout Europe. Western powers embraced the principle that market economies needed to guarantee enough basic dignity that disillusioned citizens would not go looking for scapegoats or extreme ideologies.

But all that has been discarded, and we are allowing conditions eerily similar to those in the 1930s to be re-created today. Since the 2008 financial crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission, and the European Central Bank (known as the "troika") have forced country after country to accept "shock therapy"-style reforms in exchange for desperately needed bailout funds. To countries such as Greece, Italy, Portugal, and even France, they said: "Sure, we'll bail you out, but only in exchange for your abject humiliation. Only in exchange for you giving up control over your economic affairs, only if you delegate all key decisions to us, only if you privatize large parts of your economy, including parts of your economy that are seen as central to your identity, like your mineral wealth. Only if you accept cuts to salaries and pensions and health care." There is a bitter irony here, because IMF was created after World War II with the express mandate of preventing the kinds of economic punishment that fueled so much resentment in Germany after World War I. And yet it was an active part of the process that helped create the conditions for neo-fascist parties to gain ground in Greece, Belgium, France, Hungary, Slovakia, and so many other countries. Our current financial system is spreading economic humiliation all over the world - and it's having the precise effects that the economist and diplomat John Maynard Keynes warned of a century ago, when he wrote that if the world imposed punishing economic sanctions on Germany, "vengeance, I dare predict, will not limp."

I understand the urge to boil Trump's election down to just one or two causes. To say it is all simply an expression of the ugliest forces in the United States, which never went away and roared to the foreground when a demagogue emerged who tore off the mask. To say it is all about race, a blind rage at the loss of while privilege. Or to say that it's all attributable to women-hatred, since hte very fact tha tHillary Clinton could have been defeated by so vile and ignorant a figure as Trump is a wound that, for a great many women, refuses to heal.

But the reduction of the current crisis to just one or two factors at the exclusion of all else won't get us any closer to understanding how to defeat these forces now or the next time out. If we cannot become just a little bit curious about how all these elements - race, gender, class, economics, history, culture - have intersected with one another to produce the current crisis, we will, at best, be stuck where we were before Trump won. And that was not a safe place.

Because already, before Trump, we had a culture that treats both people and the planet like so much garbage. A system that extracts lifetimes of labor from workers and then discards them without protection. That treats millions of people, excluded from economic opportunity, as refuse to be thrown away inside prisons. That treats government as a resource to be mined for private wealth, leaving wreckage behind. That treats the land, water, and air that sustain all of life as little more than a bottomless sewer.

 - Naomi Klein
Excerpted from No Is Not Enough 

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