I bought Naomi Klein’s No Is Not Enough, just published in June, on Thursday and read it in two sittings. By Friday night I was done.
While Klein is an award-winning journalist, author of various books including This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, I had never before heard of her. I picked up her latest book because:
- I liked the title.
- I liked the description on the inside flap which begins “This is a book about how we arrived at this surreal political moment, how to keep it from getting a lot worse, and how, if we keep our heads, we can flip the script.”
- Of Junot Diaz’s endorsement on the back cover, “Magnificent…a courageous coruscating counterspell”. Ok, I had to look up coruscating; but, hey it’s Diaz of The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao. BTW, in case you’re curious, coruscating means “to emit vivid flashes of light; sparkle; scintillate; gleam.”
“Coruscating” is an apt description for this book, as well as “counterspell”. Let’s first look at where Klein sheds light. For starters, she explains, in one of the clearest ways that I have ever read, how Trump won the 2016 election. It had a lot to do with what she calls the “rise of the Superbrands.” Trump was treated as a Superbrand by the media during his presidential run, not only giving him free outsized air time but also focusing on his personality and interpersonal conflicts with his opponents instead of focusing on the issues. Personally, I think that the most devastating reason why he won was that too many Democratic voters didn’t show up to vote.
She then explains how the current administration is governing using what she has coined “the Shock Doctrine”. This term “describes the quite brutal tactic of systematically using the public’s disorientation following a collective shock—wars, coups, terrorist attacks, market crashes, or natural disasters—to push through radical pro-corporate measures, often called ‘shock therapy’.” Trump’s election was a collective shock, and his frantic signing of executive orders during his first week in office is typical of the “Shock Doctrine”.
Klein is masterful at revealing and connecting various issues. Climate change is a central issue of her book and at the heart of many of today’s problems (according to Klein, drought is one of the factors that ignited the Syria crisis). She also brilliantly explains the Republicans’ denial of climate change (which, of course, has to do with oil).
In a show of her clear intellect, she discusses why “…Oprah and Zuckerberg will not save us” (and how the two Bills, Clinton and Gates, partially paved Trump’s path to the White House).
One of the most revealing bits of information in the book is her brief exposé on Mike Pence which I found to be extremely important and timely, considering the increasing likelihood we might end up with President Pence—God help us. In the section entitled “Meet the Disaster Capitalism Cabinet” Klein writes:
He [Pence] was at the heart of one of the most shocking stories I’ve ever covered: the disaster capitalism free-for-all that followed Katrina and the drowning of New Orleans. Mike Pence’s doings as a profiteer from human suffering are so appalling that they’re worth exploring in a little more depth, since they tell us a great deal about what we can expect from this administration during times of heightened crisis.
At the time Katrina hit New Orleans, Pence was chairman of the powerful and highly ideological Republican Study Committee (RSC)…On September 13, 2005—just fourteen days after the levees were breached and with parts of New Orleans still under water—the RSC convened a fateful meeting at the offices of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC. Under Pence’s leadership, the group came up with a list of ‘Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices’ —thirty-two pseudo relief policies in all, each one straight out of the disaster capitalism playbook…The list includes recommendations to ‘automatically suspend Davis-Bacon prevailing wage laws in disaster areas’ (a reference to the law that requires federal contractors to pay a living wage); ‘make the entire affected area a flat-tax free-enterprise zone’; and ‘repeal or waive restrictive environmental regulations…that hamper rebuilding.’
And there was more. Though climate scientists have directly linked the increased intensity of hurricanes to warming ocean temperatures, that didn’t stop Pence and his committee from calling on Congress to repeal environmental regulations on the Gulf Coast, give permission for new oil refineries in the United States, and green-light ‘drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.’
Frankly, I was depressed most of the time that I was reading Klein’s book. It isn’t just the quantity of the political and social problems we’re facing, the unpreparedness and incompetence of the current administration, the GOP’s laser-like focus to favor the rich at the expense of everyone else, and the worsening state of our democracy. The worst problem that we are facing is that on climate change we have a point of no return. Once we pass it (and I fear that we might already have), there is no coming back. Our survival as a species depends on what we do now. If the extinction of the human race in a few hundred years is not enough to galvanize us into action, the condition in which we will leave this planet to our children and grandchildren should.
It is in what we can do to prevent this grim future, in what we can do to move forward from resistance to a clear plan of action, or as Klein states “to move beyond no to yes” that her book offers the counterspell that Junot Diaz referenced. To put it simply, Klein talks about unity.
At this point, I think that it’s important to reveal that Klein endorsed Bernie Sanders and that when I read this in her book, I had a knee-jerk reaction to drop it. I realize that this is childish, but I’m still angry with Sanders. I believe that his ego was bigger than his love of our country and bigger than his commitment to saving it from a Trump presidency. There is no doubt in my mind that he played a major role in Hillary’s loss by staying too long in the race, building resentment in his followers who then couldn’t vote for Hillary. However, reading this book I have understood that it’s time to move on from that. What’s done is done. It is now more important to fight together than to look to the past and hold on to grievances that will only prevent us from doing what is crucial to save our future.
In the spirit of unity, we not only need to move on from the Clinton/Sanders division, according to Klein we need to pool all the different pockets of resistance and fight simultaneously for policies to protect our environment, fight racism, homophobia, intolerance, social injustice, nationalism, the list is long but interrelated. Furthermore, she believes that we need a real pull to the left to successfully counterattack the push to the extreme right currently under way. She believes that centrist-left positions are too weak to in the face of such onslaught.
While, I personally, do not like extremes, either on the right or on the left of the political spectrum, there is ample evidence in history that in order to find balance the pendulum often swings from one end to the other. I can understand Klein’s conclusion even as I’m not completely comfortable with it.
In any case, this is an important book that should be read by everyone who is appalled by the current state of affairs in our country. It is a book that sheds light on how we got here and, more importantly, on actions that we can take moving forward. I admit sometimes it all sounds a bit too idealistic, too impossible to achieve. But, weren’t we the ones who also thought a Trump presidency was impossible? If nothing else (and there’s a lot more), Trump’s election has shown that anything is possible. Read this book and decide what is possible for you to do.