I read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine in 2007. To be honest with you, I was more excited about getting through a heavy read on capitalism, free markets, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) than the actual argument in the book. But something must have resonated with me because here I am 13 years later thinking about it on my morning run, listening to country music while trying to weed through the chaotic mess and confusion in my head. We are well past neo-liberal ideologies and free market policies by now. That ship has sailed, as the IMF is happily nestled in and ruling every —poor— corner of the globe. But I do believe that the shock doctrine can offer us a valuable blueprint today. The likely ”business-as-usual” alternative post-pandemic is a terrible scenario. If we are not vigilant, there will be so much more than neo-liberal ideologies and free market policies quietly slipped into our drinks while we frantically search for toilet paper.
The shock doctrine is simple. Create a disaster —or better still fight nature so disasters can unfold on their own— then jump in to privatize and “free-marketize” the state to ensure a rich few get richer, while the majority spends lifetimes in service and subservience to that few. The latest stats indicate that the world’s richest 1% own 44% of the world’s wealth. It does not take an economic genius to conclude that there is a deeply disturbing flaw in this figure, a flaw that has been silently metastasizing over decades.
“…the social breakdowns that have accompanied neo-liberal economic policies are not the result of incompetence or mismanagement. They are integral to the free-market project, which can only advance against a background of disasters…. disaster is part of the normal functioning of the type of capitalism we have today: ‘An economic system that requires constant growth, while bucking almost all serious attempts at environmental regulation, generates a steady stream of disasters all on its own, whether military, ecological or financial. The appetite for easy, short-term profits offered by purely speculative investment has turned the stock, currency and real estate markets into crisis-creation machines, as the Asian financial crisis, the Mexican peso crisis and the dotcom collapse all demonstrate.’’’ John Gray, The Guardian
Fortunately for you, I will not discuss economics. My economic expertise begins and ends at spending money —really well. I will however propose the idea of a bottom-up green shock doctrine that may potentially cure the cancer ravaging our planet. We are in shock. This is a great time to slip in serious green doctrines. “We” includes our leaders and those running the neo-liberal free-market show. “Us” are the majority serving the few.
As we are locked down in the centre of the pandemic storm destroying humanity and global economy, I wonder what the world will look when the storm settles. The more likely scenario is we will take the crashing positions, wait it out, then get up and go about our life as though nothing happened. We will mourn our dead for a day or two and then get back to our labs to resume work on our biological and nuclear arsenal. Pharmaceutical companies will get rich from vaccines and management drugs. Those doctors and nurses who survive this armageddon will go back to work managing patients’ heart disease and other diseases of gluttony and affluence. Manufactured, refined food conglomerates serving the American Standard Diet (SAD) will continue to invade every corner of the globe along with its friendly sponsor the IMF. Very soon, our arteries will be so clogged up in our brains, we will forget this even happened.
This is already happening. Guns and alcohol sales are increasing in the US, warning of a future of lawlessness and anarchy, enriching corporations selling killing machines in both liquid and weapon form. In my neck of the woods, the fastest selling “essential” item a few hours into a “soft” lifting of the lockdown has been cigarettes —not spinach.
Meanwhile, some countries are teaching us valuable lessons in green living by their response and low COVID-19 death rates. A couple of game changers in Germany’s low COVID-19 death rate that have intrigued me have been its highest nurse rate (care, human compassion, and nurture) and an active, healthy older population that has weathered the virus despite infection. (Also care, human compassion, and nurture.)
For me, “green” is synonymous with a compassionate life in which personal choices, behaviours, and state policies are governed by the concept of harmony, symbiosis, and prosperity for all. (Obviously, this means it does not condone guns, alcohol, tobacco, laziness, or any other gluttony-inducing, brain-numbing, heart-clogging paraphernalia.)
The green doctrine will only succeed if it is introduced by the bottom, from the bottom. History has shown it will never come from the top. It will come from the nurses and doctors, from the health-workers and municipal cleaners, from the teachers and the students, from the 99% moving the economic wheel. We demand and enforce it by our choices. We refuse the drug and immerse ourselves in the prevention. We clean the land and plant trees.
Our leaders are in shock. We can slip this into their drinks.
I read a wonderful piece on lessons on leadership from Marcus Orelius yesterday. It made me think about leadership today. I believe we have been looking for it outside of ourselves all along. I realize that we —the 99%— are Marcus Orelius. Our power is in the choices we make, regardless of what is going on around us. Mother Earth is with us on this.
It is no coincidence that I am reading Naomi Klein’s latest book on climate change called On Fire. In it, she proposes a global Green New Deal that can save whatever is left to be saved from the destruction we have caused. In my head, her books are all mixed up. The result? A Shock Green Doctrine —by the 99%.