No Is Not Enough 2, Naomi Klein


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:

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…

Fences and Windows, Naomi Klein

Since September 11, I have spoken with friends from South Africa and Iran who are furious about the outpouring of grief demanded of them in response to the attacks. They say it is racist to ask the world to mourn and avenge U.S. deaths when so many deaths in their countries go unmourned, unavenged. I have argued with these friends that this is a moral dead end, that mourning each other’s terrible losses is surely what it means to be human. And yet, I’ve come to accept, with much reluctance, that perhaps I am asking too much. Perhaps from those who have seen so much indifference to the loss of their own loved ones, so much asymmetry of compassion, we in the West have, at least temporarily, forfeited the right to expect compassion in return.

fence&windowsI’d forgotten all about the Fences and Windows until I started looking for No Logo, Klein’s first book that I knew was somewhere in my collection and I was surprised to find this one alongside it. I’ve had both books for several years but I don’t recall how much I read in the past.

Fences and Windows is a collection of articles, essays and speeches written just over a decade ago, about the erosion of democracy within the context of so-called free trade and globalisation policies of Western governments.

The articles are a diary-like record of Klein’s observations of people affected adversely by political decisions and economic practices over which they have no control, and are given no voice.

terrorKlein also looks at the various ways those decisions and practices were being challenged by activists.

In the middle of this record the attacks of September 11th 2001 were carried out. Those attacks added another level to the political situation at the heart of Klein’s reporting. She suggests how reaction to those attacks was exploited to further galvanise pre-attack political agendas, and the subduing of those challenging them.