Author Naomi Klein addresses global financial ills

Christina Chaey

Naomi Klein doesn’t believe in calling the Bush administration incompetent for its widely unpopular policies on the war in Iraq. Instead, she argues that the Iraq model of reconstruction has been “incredibly profitable.”

“They’re only incompetent if you believe that their goal is to better the lives of everyone on Earth,” the journalist and international bestselling author told a crowd of about 150 community members and a handful of students in the Owen L. Coon Forum on Monday night.

Klein discussed her bestselling book, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” at an event hosted by Peace Project, a student advocacy group, and co-sponsored by Campus Activists. The event, which was originally planned for Jan. 26, was rescheduled last-minute after Klein unexpectedly cancelled.

In “The Shock Doctrine,” Klein explores the history of America’s involvement in free-market capitalism and how this ideology “came to sweep the globe.”

Klein extensively addressed the invasion of Iraq as an “extreme example” of the shock doctrine, describing the post-invasion Iraq as an “absolute capitalist Wild West.” She also described the shock doctrine as a method to circumvent democracy.

“(Free-market fundamentalists) will seize on crises to get around democracy because normal times are inhospitable to their ideas,” she said.

Klein tied the message of “The Shock Doctrine” to global current events and examples of large-scale shock that she has seen firsthand, such as Sri Lanka after Cyclone 04B in 2000 and post-invasion Iraq. Through her experiences, she said she has seen a recurring trend: the “tremendous hunger to participate in reconstruction” after a large-scale crisis.

“One of the great myths is that people who’ve suffered trauma can’t go through the reconstruction process, when reconstruction is actually the key to healing from the trauma,” she said.

Klein emphasized that the current state of American financial politics is certainly not the last crisis. Although she did not present a solution, she emphasized that America needs to reform its state of shock resistance.

“We have to place ourselves in an alternative narrative to prepare ourselves for the next shock,” she said. “The next shock is the bill that comes after this bailout.”

Nicole Colson, 33, a reporter for SocialistWorker.org, said she agreed with Klein’s views on the importance of social reform and shock resistance, particularly from the working class.

“I think that’s a message that resounds with a lot of people right now,” the Rogers Park resident said. “Are working people willing to fight back? Are there social movements? Those are what really make a difference.”

After her speech, Klein engaged with audience members in a question-and-answer session that evolved into a discussion on the current state of Israeli-Palestinian relations. The crowd applauded Klein when she announced she would be releasing “The Shock Doctrine” in Hebrew through a small activist press, as well as in Arabic.

Peace Project co-president Amalia Oulahan, who writes for The Weekly, said she would have liked to see more students attend the event, though the problem was largely because the group did not have enough time to adequately publicize the rescheduled date.

“This is a really exciting time for news and world events,” the Medill junior said. “(Students) probably could be paying more attention to these things.”

Regardless, Klein also stressed the importance of de-mystifying potentially unfamiliar subjects, such as the bailout and the inner workings of the Federal Reserve System.

“It’s really rare that people gather together and try to unpack this stuff,” she said. “This is a key part of getting to the next phase, which is what we’re going to do about it.”

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