“It’s powerful, rousing stuff” – No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein

ninenkDonald Trump is President of the United States. Even a year ago that would have drawn incredulous WTF expressions the world over. Donald Trump is President of the United States. So ridiculous I had to say it twice. Earlier today, an attempt to hack your humble Bookmunch scribe’s email account from Oblast in Russia was foiled by the good people of Google. The danger in which we find ourselves – from large corporations whose only loyalty is to shareholders, from rogue nations hellbent on returning us all to 18th century feudalism, from random fuckknuckles on mopeds, from ignorant racists on the street – is of the kind to bend your spine.  How to cope with the weight, the sheer volume, of shit? If one chose to stay in bed with the sheets pulled overhead, it would be understandable. But one could read Naomi Klein’s latest book instead.

As you’d expect, much of No is Not Enough centres on the world in which we live. She talks about her reaction, and the reactions of those close to her, on election night. And then she circles the wagons and reiterates the arguments of No Logo, The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything.. That is: hollow businesses doing away with producing anything in favour of pushing the holiness of a brand is a bad thing; corporations becoming people, at least in the eyes of the law, is a bad thing; governments, and the rich, using terrible events to push through an agenda that benefits them and is to the detriment of 99% of the planet is a bad thing; and, you know, the future – we’re all fucked if we don’t act fast. That last rumbles like a hum throughout the entire book. We are all fucked if we don’t act fast. Let that one settle in with you a moment. We are all fucked if we don’t act fast.

“That’s why the Right is in a rebellion against the physical world, against science… there is a reason why science has become such a battle zone – because it is revealing again and again that neoliberal business as usual leads to a species-threatening catastrophe.”

Trump and his cronies may have spent their first few days in the White House attempting to eradicate decades of research on global warming – but Trump is also building high walls around his coastal golf clubs, and his cronies are spending more money than ever before on end of the world survival outposts. They know they are ruining the world for everyone but they think they can survive whatever shit they create. Or that they’ll be dead by the time the shit hits the fan.

Something else Klein’s book does: for those that need it, it describes what neoliberalism is. Neoliberalism is the enemy. Neoliberalism is what makes Tony Blair a bad leader. Neoliberalism is what makes Barrack Obama a bad leader. Neoliberalism is what makes Trump a bad leader. Here is what neoliberalism looks like:

“It looks like generations of children, overwhelmingly Black and brown, raised amidst an uncaring landscape. It looks like the rat-infested schools of Detroit. It looks like water pipes leaking lead and poisoning young minds in Flint. It looks like foreclosed mortgages on homes that were built to collapse. It looks like famished hospitals that feel more like jails – and overstuffed jails that are society’s best approximation of hell.”

It also looks like the non-dom tax evaders who publish all of our newspapers telling us that the issue is benefit fraud and immigration rather than multi-billionaires not paying their share to keep the roads free of potholes and the nurses with enough money to feed and clothe themselves. It looks like the rich exploiting wars to drive up the price of oil. It looks like the working classes (or indeed anyone not earning over £70K a year) voting Conservatives because they think the alternative is not plausible.

This is Trump (quoted by Klein):

“You hear lots of people say that a great deal is when both sides win. That is a bunch of crap. In a great deal, you win – not the other side. You crush the opponent and come away with something better for yourself.”

In the zero-sum game in which we all currently find ourselves, when Trump says “you” he means himself and his family and those he has welcomed into his inner circle. His opponent? Quite literally, everyone else. The planet. We are all fucked if we don’t act fast. Governments run by people like Trump use terrible events – terrorist atrocities, wars – to push through their own agenda. Wars push up the price of oil which would suit Trump and Putin both. Klein thinks we wont start to see how terrible it’s going to get until year 2 of Trump’s tenure, if he lasts that long.

“…we need to be clear that a state of instability and uncertainty is not something that is feared by core figures in and around the Trump administration; on the contrary, many will embrace it.”

Unlike the vast majority of books that seek to point out just how incredibly shit everything is right now, though, Klein devotes a quarter of her book to what can be done.  Our basic function, she tells,

“to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

Klein shares optimism:

“Most encouragingly, while the early assumption was that Trump’s rise could set off a wave of far right electoral victories, in some countries it seems to be having the opposite effect.”

She tells stories – of Standing Rock, for instance, where people power continues to assert a tremendous sway (even if Trump over-ruled them without a second thought) – that give you hope. And she shows you ways that you can make a difference, in a small way, every day, by resisting your own inner Trump:

“There are some… often-overlooked ways that many of us can do more to confront our inner Trump… Maybe it’s the part whose attention span is fracturing into 140 characters… Maybe it’s the part that has learned to see ourselves as brands in the marketplace rather than people in communities… Or maybe it’s the part that can’t resist joining a mob to shame and attack people with whom we disagree – sometimes using cruel personal slurs and with an intensity set to nuclear.”

In some ways, No is Not Enough is a full stop, a summation of Klein’s work to date. Written much faster than her previous books, one wonders if this has to become her new modus operandi. Write well enough, maintain the drum beat, sound the charge. It’s powerful, rousing stuff, necessary, urgent, important. This is the kind of book designed to get you out into the streets, protesting, thinking about other people, resisting the urge to be monstrous yourself, being the best you.

Any Cop?: If you’ve never read any Klein before, No is Not Enough is a great place to start. And if you read this and change one thing – even if that one thing is just not joining in with a hateful horde on Twitter – all the better.

 

 

 

 

 

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