Naomi Klein writes on alternet.org today about worldwide public reaction to various governments' attempts to solve economic problems by giving concessions and money to big businesses and banks.
In her 2006 book The Shock Doctrine, Klein detailed how governments and businesses across the world had colluded during crises over the past 30-40 years to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of a very small minority. In Klein's eyes, governments are up to the same tricks during our current worldwide economic meltdown.
However, in 2008-9 governments are running into stiff opposition. In places like Canada, Latvia, and South Korea, such attempts have failed. She writes:
The pattern is clear: governments that respond to a crisis created by free-market ideology with an acceleration of that same discredited agenda will not survive to tell the tale.
The Shock Doctrine was pretty bleak. This article is surprisingly hopeful. Klein seems to think that people have the will and the means to force governments to make more responsible decisions. When in doubt, Klein seems to say, make trouble for your government.
As an American, I'm disappointed that impromptu displays of meaningful political resistance are rare these days. As a culture it seems we were disillusioned by the protests in the 60s and 70s that often seemed less about political opposition and more about making noise. Protests these days are dismissed by many, including young people, as attention-seeking charades.
But Americans appreciate grassroots organizing and are still willing to devote ourselves to political causes (see the 2008 elections if you don't believe me). Obama's campaign was, if nothing else, an incredibly effective grassroots political movement.There is much to learn from the example of the Obama campaign: Having a message is key, but having an organization to back it up is even more important.
I'm not advocating a shift towards French-style political resistance, where the slightest change in government policy provokes general strikes and student riots every year or so. But I do think that grassroots, unaffiliated political movements can be an effective counterweight to the still-powerful corporate lobby.
What do you say—fancy a protest?
I think mass protests in the U.S. about the economy would be a great, and necessary idea. Politicians are too isolated--and don't feel unemployment--to really understand how people are feeling. But anything violent would be counter-productive, don't you agree, Mr. Roderick?
I definitely agree with you. Violence is no good, and goes beyond the scope of what I'm talking about here. What you need is passion, without the violence.