I'm hip-deep in Naomi Klein's perspective-altering book The Shock Doctrine
. Klein is a columnist for The Nation, so her political bent is clear, but this is definitely not a preaching-to-the-converted book. Reading this stuff reminds me what people mean when they say there are so little differences between the Republicans and the Democrats. Obviously Bush II has made painfully clear the devastating consequences of the differences that do exist, but the economic policies of both parties have, over the last thirty or so years, encouraged the drift of wealth away from the national infrastructure and into the private coffers of the rich. We hear this a lot, and though many of us know it intuitively to be true, we can't speak with any specificity about the apparatus that makes
Klein addresses that in very clear terms in this book, beginning with the displacement of Keynesian economic thought with Milton Friedman's pro-corporatist theories. Klein also illustrates, quite convincingly, that Friedman's economic policies thrive in totalitarian states. This was proved in the South American Friedman "laboratories" of Chile and Argentina in the 1970s, in which established and highly-regarded social-welfare structures were dismantled after violent political upheaval, and replaced with aggressive privatization and corporate empowerment. There are disturbing parallels between what happened there and the privatization efforts in places like post-Katrina New Orleans (especially on the public education front) and, nationally, in the post-9/11 United States.
I haven't finished the book yet -- I'm not even halfway through, actually -- but it's already had a strong effect on me. I can't recommend it enough.
The above video is a "short film" (really more of a long commercial) based on the book, from Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron. (Alfonso is the guy who directed Children of Men
and Y Tu Mama Tambien
.) It addresses Klein's contention that radical economic change is easiest to apply after major upheaval, such as what follows catastrophic natural disasters or campaigns of fear and repression. The malleable mindset brought about by these conditions is similar, she contends, to that which follows torture. She devotes hundreds of pages to this thesis; it makes for fascinating, terrifying reading. Read it!