Events are happening so fast and a US presidency unravelling so quickly that Naomi Klein’s new polemic – much like last night’s news – is in danger of appearing outdated before it has a chance to sink in.
Pity, because No Is Not Enough is more than an extended rant against President Donald Trump and the apotheosis of corporate America’s power-grab.
While the author and activist is excessively preoccupied with the consequences for American of a misogynistic, racist and climate change denier in the White House, she also believes a good crisis should not go to waste.
Her previous book – 2007’s Shock Doctrine: The Rise Of Disaster Capitalism – exposed how politicians and corporations exploited, and even seeded, calamities.
The purpose was to claim more powers for the state (civil liberties eroded because of terrorism) or claim more money for shareholders (the free-for-all security bonanza in Iraq).
In her new book, she adapts this credo of the elite to shape a template for people power. The world’s troubles – terror, climate, poverty – do require a radical response, but not from them but from us .
The Leap initiative
Klein does more than argue the point. She helped make it real with the Leap initiative in Canada . This saw activist groups, communities, native peoples and the disenfranchised come together to draw up broad principles that would underpin a fair and sustainable society.
The movement deliberately avoided becoming a political party, preferring to inform all levels of Canadian society through grass-roots community action and debate. Among its policy demands were a universal basic income, respect for individual rights, a progressive carbon tax, “town hall” democracy and affordable public transport.
Ironically, the fact that President Trump exceeded even his own toxic norm with his Charlottesville diatribe does Klein’s campaign no favours. If he is discredited, dismissed and forgotten, there’s a chance that a weary US will move on and rally round a “business as usual” alternative.
Klein argues that in these apocalyptic times “business as usual” is the last thing anyone needs and, in all likelihood, the last thing anyone will have.
Back to the drawing board
Studying how we got to this point of fragmentation, I went back to first principles to see how evolution would have us organise ourselves.
Edward O Wilson’s The Social Conquest Of Earth marvellously illustrates the mercurial power of adaptation. Our supremacy is an oxymoronic combination of improbable luck and inevitability.
Evolution, that great pragmatist, appears to possess an insatiable drive to shape something like us – even though the chances of doing so are infinitesimally small.
And just when we get there, we gain the power and will to destroy everything.
Evolution has much work to do.