Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Few (Quick) Thoughtz: The Shock Doctrine



Peace and blessings,

What do the Bolivia, China, Indonesia, Iraq, Poland, Russia, and the U.S. (New York & New Orleans) in common?

According to Naomi Klein (2007), each of them, at some particular time and in some particular form, have been hit with what she refers as the "Shock Doctrine." Building off of the work and principles of CIA-affiliated/supported Psychiatrist Ewen Cameron, Klein argues that each of the above countries have experienced debilitating shocks, all in the name of "economic progress" and "stability." Just as Ewen Cameron once believed that through intense procedures of sensory deprivation and other techniques that he could "wipe an individual's slate clean" and "build them up again from scratch" (my quotations, not his), Klein argues that this principle was applied in each of these countries. Before I proceed, I want to make it clear that I am aware of my lack of understanding of economics as a discipline (I still have "memories" from the Econ classes I took in undergrad, lol). These are just my opinions and in no way are they meant as an indictment of the discipline per se. The following is just my interpretation of Klein's interpretation of a particular type of economic practice (i.e., the "Shock Doctrine.")

One of the things Klein points out about the Shock Doctrine is that in each of the countries in which it was implemented, it's implementation was preceded by some kind of "shocking event." The event could be political (a coup or new election), natural (Tsunami, Katrina), military-related (War on Terror), and so forth. The idea is that times of rapid change, confusion, and devastation are "ripe" opportunities to push through an economic agenda that if pushed through in "normal, stable" conditions, would likely be met with much opposition.

Two of the primary characteristics of this economic agenda is that it includes limited to no government intervention/regulation, and relatedly, it is "purely capitalistic" in that privatization is key. For instance, a common theme in the non-U.S. countries hit with the Shock Doctrine is that a primary goal of its implementation is to sell off the assets owned by that particular country to private, and in many cases, outside (foreign, multinational) corporations. This often results in major profits for the few who either work for or are "in good" with such corporations and massive employment for a significant portion of everyone else. In the U.S. (9-11 in New York and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans), this primary goal manifested itself with regards to a select number of major contractors taking up most of the major rebuilding efforts, leaving many people who were affected by the catastrophe unable to participate in rebuilding the rebuilding efforts.

Another interesting point she addresses is how the theoretical "weight" behind the Shock Doctrine came from Milton Friedman, and the school of thought he "groomed" amongst his former students and associates (referred to as the "Chicago Boys" or the "Chicago Mafia"). In most of the cases that the Shock Doctrine was implemented, it was either proposed or managed (in some capacity) by a "student" of his idea of capitalism free from government involvement pursuing privatization as if it's an end in itself (i.e., worthy or pursuit in its own right). Now I'm not hating on privatization in general, but I tend to believe that too much of anything (except Jesus' love of course, lol!) can begin to yield detrimental consequences.

These are only a few quick thoughts on the book, as I don't have the book with me to expand on any point mentioned in more detail. All throughout reading it, one thing kept coming to mind. Out of the many warnings the bible gives with regards to how to treat others and how to live, one warning, in my opinion, rings true time and time again: The love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Now I'm not saying the perpetrators of these Shock Doctrines as identified by Klein are evil, or even that they even love money. I'm just saying that as I read Klein's book, I became more aware of the ever-present dangers of putting things (e.g., money) over people. On that note, I'll close with the words from a rapper Styles P, whose line in a song a few years go sticks to me to this day, and remains one of the most relevant lines I've ever heard. It goes something like

"...[the love of]money is the root of evil/how can we say in God we trust [referencing the printing on U.S. money]/knowing what it do to people/"

What do you think? Have you read the book? If so, what are your thoughts? Can you think of any other instances where things (esp. money) are prioritized over people? Until next time, stay blessed and speekonit...

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