The Lucky Get Kevlar, The Rest Get Prayer Beads: The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein

February 6th, 2008 at 4:46 pm

The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein is a chilling, writhing outrage of a book. A hideous, squealing beast of a book that cannot and should not be ignored.

Klein has dropped the curtain on an ugly, malevolent Wizard. When these kind of curtains drop, what we see is never pretty. Like so many of these kinds of leftist exposes on conservatives, the Bush Administration, the neocons and their rabble, this book needn’t have been written. Orwell wrote it already. But better than any other book of its kind (The Assassin’s Gate, The Looming Tower, Fiasco), Klein makes it so painfully obvious that these necons who have grabbed control of the reins of this wild mustang of a country and who disdain the government so much, have therefore absolutely no business governing. Something is indeed rotten when Destruction and Doom is this profitable. It’s Cowardly, it’s Un-American, it’s Weak, and it is Lazy.

If Reading is Sexy, this book is a tour through a decrepit brothel with Klein as your guide to point out the perverse fetishes and hemorrhaging syphilitic tumors rupturing on the sides of our society. Klein’s story is an epic and sprawling Indictment, providing exhaustive analysis and criticism of the disastrous economic policies pursued in Latin America, Poland, China, South Africa, Iraq, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and in Asia after the tsunami.>

The Shock Doctrine is the story of Milton Friedman and his “Chicago School” of economic policies: Led by the US and its incestuous, inbred offspring (the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO), Friedman touted an economic policy that came to be termed The Washington Consensus. It was resoundingly embraced by neocons under the guise of spreading “freedom” to countries at their most dire by installing the triumvirate of Friedmanism: 1) privatization (outsourcing), 2) free trade/deregulation, and 3) a cut in government spending.

What Klein does a very good job of illuminating throughout her book is that what these neocons refer to as economic freedom does not equate to nor provide for human rights and civil liberties. Economic freedom (free trade) is not a panacea for the world’s ills. A blind faith in capitalism is not enough. A dictatorship of communism or fascism is revealed to be the same as a dictatorship of Business. As Klein’s gruesome story unfolds across the world, the main tenets of this “shock doctrine” cease to be privatization, deregulation, and pay cuts but instead Exploitation, Opportunism, Manipulation, and Corruption. Such economic polices only survived when democracy was suppressed. As Klein explains,“Once you accept that profit and greed as practiced on a mass scale create the greatest possible benefits for any society, pretty much any act of personal enrichment can be justified as a contribution to the great creative cauldron of capitalism, generating wealth and spurring economic growth – even if it’s only for yourself and your colleagues.”

No. The Average Joe does not benefit from such disaster capitalism. People like you and I do not get anything out of such tactics, and the citizens of countries where such horrendous laws are actually put into place certainly do not benefit. No. The benefits go to firms like Halliburton, Bechtel, and Blackwater who swarm around the government salivating for no-bid contracts like junkies pacing the sidewalks outside a methadone clinic. Never have Disparity and Hypocrisy sung so depressing a duet. We have Socialism in America, but not for the poor, that would be Socialism! No, our handouts go to Rich Friends. The poor are getting poorer. The rich are getting richer. Private firms greedily gobble up no-bid government contracts from their fat cat robber baron puppet leader-friends straight out of corporate America now sitting in big chairs in corner offices for the U S of A. The outsourcing and branding that was successful in the private sector is introduced to the public sector. Big Business and Big Government are in a Big Bed fucking to their dirty pig heart’s content. Oink oink.

So Iraqi Freedom was really about opening up a new market for private multi-national corporations to reap absurd profits. It is a crude, obnoxious tactic and a new level for war profiteers. And once those tactics had failed in Iraq, they were used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck. Like the pathetic drunk at the Roulette Wheel in Shreveport, Bush and his cronies are nothing more than stupid kids who don’t learn, foolishly insisting that “they’re due.” War profiteers should be treated like the drunk driving, child molesting pervert Losers they are.

We all know that the Emperor Has No Clothes. But now, it doesn’t matter. Our Leaders are Blind, Deaf and Dumb anyway. They are dressed, fed, entertained, and put to bed by Outsourced Contractors. “When it came time to update the Army Manual on the rules for dealing with contractors, the army contracted out the job to one of its major contractors, MPRI – it no longer had the know-how in-house.” Most disheartening is that these people seem to have lost their sense of humor. Irony is clearly lost on them. All hope is lost. Send them back to a small liberal arts college and have them suffer through an anthropology major or something.

Klein again and again asks the right questions from a different perspective. A good critic, Klein consistently analyzes events and actions to determine the cause for which they are indicative of. Torture? What is that symptomatic of? What is torture serving? That is the ill, what is the disease, the cause, that needs to be cured?

Klein’s prose is dense and exacting, exerting the thorough confidence of a straightforward journalist asking the right questions about the right topics from a refreshingly different perspective. Given her subject matter, you actually wish she’d allow herself a little more personal rage, some occasional vitriol and human madness. But no. Klein is a cool character, calmly exposing the atrocities and mistakes of our Modern Era. She even quotes Rilke, Brecht, and the rapper Juvenile.

This book belongs on your shelf next to The People’s History of the United States of America, though Klein is hardly the polished, captivating storyteller that Zinn is. But like Zinn’s magnificent and important work, The Shock Doctrine is about the Little Man, the Worker, the Poor, the Forgotten. The Shock Doctrine continues on in that great and noble canon that is for The Rest.

Despite such a sprawling, probing work that can at times wander and leap across themes and arguments, Klein can be quite poignant when she drops the complex and well-constructed debate in favor of keen observations. Observing the “reconstruction” following the Asian Tsunami disaster, Klein observes, “What it looked like was hundreds of thousands of poor, brown-skinned people (the fishing people deemed “unproductive” by the World Bank) being moved against their wishes to make room for ultrarich, mostly light-skinned people (the “high-yield” tourists).

“One thing was certain, though: if peace was to take root in Sri Lanka, it needed to outweigh the benefits of war including the tangible economic benefits flowing from a war economy, in which the army takes care of the families of its soldiers and the Tamil Tigers look after the families of its fighter and suicide bombers.”We are fighting the same exact problem in Iraq. That’s the West for you, we figured out a way to get Peace. But it’s War. Cheers!

Some day, Historians will find the non-fiction books written about this era and probably mistake them for the plays of some raving-mad lunatic genius, the next Shakespeare, because how can these things be True! But no, unfortunately our Humiliation and our Embarrassment are Real. And Klein is the haunting ghost who makes you realize that we live in a world where,“Survival is determined by who can afford to pay for escape.”

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