Sunday, 30 August 2015

This Changes Everything: Global Capitalism, Climate Change, Corporate-Government Collusion, Hurricane Katrina and why #BlackLivesMatter

By Fia Hamid-Walker

The last time Naomi appeared in Australia was 14 years ago. She returned, passport and visa in hand, prepared for a sixty-minute interview and a potential encounter with #BorderFarce at the MWF 2015 session: an Audience with Naomi Klein.

However, sixty minutes was not long enough for her to discuss the ramifications of global capitalism – the essential theme of her writings. Her books examine and expose the ways global capitalism affects millions of people. In the brief 60 minutes we shared with her, she explored the exploitation of the poor, consumer capitalism, environmental destruction, climate change, corporate-government collusion and racism.

The corporatisation of lifestyle was vigorous back in the early 90s. People yearned to wear the same sneakers as Michael Jordan, and MTV was nothing other than propaganda for hedonism and consumer capitalism. Not much has changed since. If anything, corporate branding has grown even more aggressive. At the end of her book No Logo Naomi presages a future in which everyone has their own personal branding.

It was unfortunate that Naomi was not asked how the issues canvassed in No Logo are pertinent to understanding how such tragedies like the Rana Plaza collapse occurred and what responsibility we as consumers have in trying to prevent such catastrophes from happening again.

Naomi expressed concern about how we run our economy, claiming that we need to change the way we conceive of it if we wish to make radical changes to the way we live. Governments around the world have been comfortably protecting the interests of big corporations and making laws that suit them, while conveniently abandoning the people they have been given the responsibility to protect. This collusion between government and big corporations was outstandingly examined and exposed in her book The Shock Doctrine.

In that work book Naomi discusses how bad news is great news for the government and the big corporation lobbyists, who take advantage by effortlessly pushing through controversial legislations which encroach on civil liberties: such as legitimising, in the name of democracy, the declaring of  war on Iraq and Afghanistan after 9/11. As far as hypocrisy goes, no legislation was put in place to save the lives of Americans -who were disproportionately black - when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in August 2005.

Naomi reflected on her experience of visiting New Orleans (as she was finishing The Shock Doctrine) to find out that racism played a massive role in how the US government handled the disaster. Hurricane Katrina did not attract the interest of privatisation, nor the necessary taxpayer-funded government relief needed to maintain infrastructure.  This week marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Naomi expressed sadness that there has not much been done to improve the livelihood of people in the affected areas. If you want to understand why black lives matter, understanding New Orleans in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina is a great place to start.

Not only did Hurricane Katrina show that the mismanagement of the disaster by the US government was ultimately racist, it also demonstrated how the least advantaged communities would be hit hardest by the affects of climate change. Since No Logo was published in 2002, global capitalism, facilitated by governments, has grown uncontrollably. Hundreds of reports of environmental destruction are tabled every day in the media. Indigenous lands around the world have been taken to generate profits. There are emotional stories of indigenous communities around the world resisting and struggling to keep their cultures and identities safe in the face of the privatised bulldozers of neo-liberalism.   

Naomi summed up the conversation by stating that coal-mining industries know that they are struggling to sustain their business. They will do anything necessary to keep digging coal out of the ground. While fighting for radical changes sometimes feels impossible, we must keep fighting the same as those who threaten to create a ‘global Katrina’.

Edited by Margaret Robson Kett

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