No Is Not Enough

noisnotenough

I finally finished this book, published as a response to Donald Trump winning the last presidential election.

It wasn’t easy going, because there’s so much information to take in. And the disturbing nature of a lot of that information made it  a book to tackle bit by bit rather than a book that could be raced through.

Parts of it have quickly become outdated, but instead of undermining Klein’s message, that actually makes it more relevant. Those parts are outdated because of who Trump is, and how he operates. It is outdated because so many of Trump’s appointed staff referred to in the book have all been fired; as if his Presidency has been a continuation of his career as The Apprentice host. A reality TV presidency.

A major point that Klein makes is that Trump is all about Trump. That his presidency has become an extension, and the ultimate expression, of his brand. A  “property developer” who develops no property. Others pay him millions of dollars for the right to affix his name to their buildings. The presidency increases the “value” of that brand.
That has also been one of the issues raised by Michael Cohen’s recent testimony (see below) *

This book  synthesizes the content of her previous major publications: No Logo, The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything,  showing how Trump’s electoral win ought not to have been unexpected. Instead a Trump presidency  is the logical culmination of the kind of political, social and cultural paths that Klein has been studying and writing about for more than two decades.

No Is Not Enough also lives up to its own title. It does not merely point to problems but leads to a discussion of positive action to bring the change needed to turn us towards a more equitable and sustainable future.

…a plan for tangible improvements in daily life, unafraid of powerful words such as redistribution and reparation, and intent on challenging Western culture’s equation  of a “good life” with ever-escalating creature comforts inside ever-more-isolated consumer cocoons, never mind what the planet can take or whatever leads to our deepest fulfillment”

 

 

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* Article with related content, from Gary Younge, a Guardian columnist:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/28/donald-trump-michael-cohen-racist-conman-america

“Donald Trump is a man who ran for office to make his brand great … He would often say this campaign was going to be the greatest infomercial in political history.”

The presidency was never the point. He had no idea that the political establishment would be so craven and career politicians be so inept that he might prevail. “He never expected to win the primary. He never expected to win the general election. The campaign – for him – was always a marketing opportunity.”

Now, about that wall…

An interesting point made in Naomi Klein’s book No Is Not Enough (see previous  post).noisnotenough

A 2017 study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that Mexico’s poverty rate has risen since the 1994 implementation of NAFTA, with 20 million additional people now living in poverty – a major factor pushing Mexican migration to the United States.

Reading Slowdown

I have three books under the heading “Reading Now” on my current “Reading List” page:

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, James Runcie
Green Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
No Is Not Enough, Naomi Klein

sidney chambers.jpgThe James Runcie book has been there for several months. It’s a book of short stories and so far I’ve only read the first and wasn’t engaged enough to want to rush on to the next one. I leave it on my list because I’ll get a round to the next story eventually.

I got the book because I heard an interview with the author who is the son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury. The stories feature a C of E minister as the main character, who finds himself investigating suspicious deaths. The books were adapted into a TV series Grantchester,  which apparently takes a lot of liberties with the main character. The author mentioned in the interview, something along the lines that a real priest would have been thrown out of the church if he’d acted the way of the televised version.

Green MarsGreen Mars is the sequel to Red Mars, and continues the story of colonists on Mars.

In the series so far there have been some allusions to early America, leading up to the war of Independence; with the colonists growing to feel exploited by their home land (home planet) and developing a growing passion for an independent, self sufficient  new home, free of the exploitation of a distant colonial power.

I started this one several days ago, but have been distracted too much by other (non-reading) things to get far into the book yet. Maybe I shouldn’t have picked this one up straight after reading the first three volumes of the Dune series. Something a little less bulky may have been a better reading option than a 550+ page book midway through another sizable trilogy

noisnotenoughI started on Naomi Klein’s  No Is Not Enough because of some of those (political) distractions. I can only shake my head in disbelief at what has been going on in Australian politics, and I spent far too much time trying to keep up with the last few sitting days of parliament.  The cost of that has been my usual lunch-hour reading time.

Klein’s book shines a light on a lot of what is behind that current political situation from a North American viewpoint. Problems that aren’t restricted one particular nation, but are evident throughout the “western” world.

This book draws together the issues she’s written about in earlier books in greater detail. No Is Not Enough shows how all of those issues have become focused into a single point in the person and Presidency of Donald Trump.

However rather than merely add a negative voice of despair and opposition, Klein wants to look at positive answers to turn around the political and cultural systems that led to Trump’s political rise.

None of these books have maintained my interest enough to make me want to keep reading, so my progress through them has been slow, and my attention has been drifting towards other books. I suspect I’ll be finishing another book or two before I get to the end of any of these three. I’m already approaching the end of one about the manned Apollo missions of the late 60s – early 70s and have tentatively started another about the retrieval of the wreckage of the space shuttle Columbia after it broke up on re-entry in February 2003 (so long ago, how time flies!)

sts 107

 

No Logo (postscript)

An example of the continuing relevance of Naomi Klein’s No Logo appeared in the Sydney newspaper, the Sun Herald on Sunday.

back to school

Major Australian retailers Kmart and Target have come under fire for selling $2 school uniforms while factory workers are paid below levels that can cover basic living expenses.

The $2 polo shirts that are the focus of Target’s national “Back to School” campaign are produced in Bangladeshi factories where wages can be as low as $97 a month.

This national minimum wage is up to 45 per cent below the “living wage” that allows workers to pay for basic food, water, shelter, clothing, and transport, according to Oxfam and international workers unions

see article an video here:

http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/target-and-kmart-sell-2-school-uniforms-but-at-what-cost-20160112-gm4n1y.html

No Logo, by Naomi Klein

no logoNaomi Klein’s No Logo is now around 16 years old and its content ought to be out-dated, but apart from some minor details it’s no less relevant now than the day it was written.

The political and commercial situations she describes are still familiar. If anything they have become too familiar, to the point of being seen as “normality”: that it’s normal and therefore acceptable to outsource manufacturing to sweatshops in less regulated parts of the world, where practically non-existent safety regulations and ridiculously low paid workers help increase the profits of Western brands and lower the price for western buyers.

This is the reality that is barely considered by most western consumers who expect the “right” to a decent wage, but don’t want to pay what is required for people elsewhere to have that same right.

The relevance of Klein’s book remains because we in the west continue to turn a blind eye to what goes on behind the scenes of our favoured brands.

No Logo shows the extent of the exploitative business practices used by major western companies. The exposé is so comprehensive that the strength of the quantity of evidence could also become the book’s weakness. There is so much to take in, and its easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. What could we do to bring equitable change when the problem is so widespread? The exploitative corporate practices being highlighted seem to spread completely across the board, leaving no acceptable alternatives to favour and therefore few (if any) viable options of boycotting offending brand owners.

So what can be done to work towards a workable, equitable solution?
I don’t see that Klein offers one. She describes the actions of diverse groups trying to make a difference in a variety of ways, but most of them seem (at best) naively optimistic.

The best options try to raise awareness and stir public opinion towards a desire for change; but success is conditional upon the majority actually being moved enough to insist on changes that are likely to have a personal cost. The possibility of stirring that desire rests upon the assumption of the majority having an innate sense of fairness to drive them to demand justice for others who could otherwise be kept “out of sight, out of mind”.

But even IF a majority did have that motivating sense of fairness there would be the problem of HOW to respond in a constructive and focused way that would lead massively profitable companies to change their ways.

I’d like to be optimistic, but…