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  • Mark 8:04 am on June 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Professionalisation as capture  

    From Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything pg 203:

    These are the tough tools with which the environmental movement won its greatest string of victories. But with that success came some rather significant changes. For a great many groups, the work of environmentalism stopped being about organizing protests and teach-ins and became about drafting laws, then suing corporations for violating them, as well as challenging governments for failing to enforce them. In rapid fashion, what had been a rabble of hippies became a movement of lawyers, lobbyists, and U.N. summit hoppers. As a result, many of these newly professional environmentalists came to pride themselves on being the ultimate insiders, able to wheel and deal across the political spectrum. And so long as the victories kept coming, their insider strategy seemed to be working.

     
  • Mark 12:28 pm on June 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Fast movements struggle with slow issues  

    From Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything pg 158:

    Because this is a crisis that is, by its nature, slow moving and intensely place based. In its early stages, and in between the wrenching disasters, climate is about an early blooming of a particular flower, an unusually thin layer of ice on a lake, the late arrival of a migratory bird—noticing these small changes requires the kind of communion that comes from knowing a place deeply, not just as scenery but also as sustenance, and when local knowledge is passed on with a sense of sacred trust from one generation to the next. How many of us still live like that? Similarly, climate change is also about the inescapable impact of the actions of past generations not just on the present, but on generations in the future. These time frames are a language that has become foreign to a great many of us. Indeed Western culture has worked very hard to erase Indigenous cosmologies that call on the past and the future to interrogate present-day actions, with long-dead ancestors always present, alongside the generations yet to come. 

    In short: more bad timing. Just when we needed to slow down and notice the subtle changes in the natural world that are telling us that something is seriously amiss, we have sped up; just when we needed longer time horizons to see how the actions of our past impact the prospects for our future, we entered into the never-ending feed of the perpetual now, slicing and dicing our attention spans as never before.

     
  • Mark 2:33 pm on June 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Why the EU matters for the future of the climate  

    I’ll add this to reigning in big tech as the best argument I can see for supporting the EU. Could any other power structure in Europe achieve this outcome? From pg 137 of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything:

    A 2012 report by the German National Center for Aerospace, Energy and Transport Research (DLR), for instance, demonstrated that 67 percent of the electicity in all of the EU could come from renewables by 2030, with that number reaching 96 percent by 2050. But, clearly, this will become a reality only if the right policies are in place.

     
  • Mark 12:04 pm on June 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    The epistemology of apocalypse  

    From Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything pg 105:

    The word “apocalypse” derives from the Greek apokalypsis, which means “something uncovered” or revealed. Besides the need for a dramatically better health care system, there was much else uncovered and revealed when the floodwaters retreated in New York that October. The disaster revealed how dangerous it is to be dependent on centralized forms of energy that can be knocked out in one blow. It revealed the life-and-death cost of social isolation, since it was the people who did not know their neighbors, or who were frightened of them, who were most at risk. Meanwhile, it was the tightest-knit communities, where neighbors took responsibility for one another’s safety, that were best able to literally weather the storm.

     
  • Mark 11:23 am on June 5, 2019 Permalink | Reply
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    Neoliberalism: the ideological wall blocking climate action  

    From This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, pg 72:

    Indeed the three policy pillars of the neoliberal age—privatization of the public sphere, deregulation of the corporate sector, and the lowering of income and corporate taxes, paid for with cuts to public spending—are each incompatible with many of the actions we must take to bring our emissions to safe levels.

    Klein offed a fascinating suggestion of a grand narrative that could have been, as an unprecedented upsurge of climate awareness & political cooperation in 1989 was swamped by the ‘end of history’ and the building of this ideological wall. 

     
  • Mark 6:43 pm on July 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , fortress city, john urry, naomi klein, ,   

    The fortress city and what it may portend 

    A couple of months ago, I shared a disturbing extract from John Urry’s final book about what he termed the ‘fortress city scenario‘. There’s a powerful section in Naomi Klein’s recent book, No Is Not Enough, which illustrates the basis of this scenario in actually existing conditions & the manner in which contemporary warfare can act as a laboratory for dystopian futures. From pg 130-132:

    I watched another such dystopian window open in 2003 in Baghdad, shortly after the invasion. At that time, the US occupation had carved the city in two. At its heart, behind enormous concrete walls and bomb detectors, there was the Green Zone—a little chunk of the United States rebuilt in Iraq, with bars serving hard liquor, fast-food joints, gyms, and a pool where there seemed to be a party 24/7. And then—beyond those walls—there was a city bombed to rubble, where there was often no electricity for hospitals, and where violence, between Iraqi factions and US occupation forces, was spiraling out of control. That was the Red Zone. The Green Zone at the time was the fiefdom of Paul Bremer, former assistant to Henry Kissinger and director of Kissinger’s consulting firm, whom George W. Bush had named as the chief US envoy to Iraq. Since there was no functioning national government, that essentially made him Iraq’s supreme leader. Bremer’s was an entirely privatized empire. Dressed in combat boots and a sharp business suit, Bremer was always protected by a phalanx of black-clad mercenaries working for the now-defunct company Blackwater, and the Green Zone itself was run by Halliburton—one of the largest oil field companies in the world, previously headed by then vice president Dick Cheney—along with a network of other private contractors. When US officials made forays outside the Green Zone (or the “emerald city,” as some journalists called it), they did so in heavily armored convoys, with soldiers and mercenaries pointing machine guns outward in all directions, guided by an ethic of “shoot first, ask questions later.” Regular Iraqis supposedly being liberated by all this weaponry had no protection, except for the kind provided by religious militias in exchange for loyalty. The message broadcast by the convoys was loud and clear: some lives count a hell of a lot more than others. From deep inside his Green Zone fortress, Bremer issued decree after decree about how Iraq should be remade into a model free-market economy. Come to think of it, it was a lot like Donald Trump’s White House. And the edicts were pretty similar too. Bremer ordered, for instance, that Iraq should have a 15 percent flat tax (quite similar to what Trump has proposed), that its state-owned assets should be rapidly auctioned off (under consideration by Trump), and that government should be

     
  • Mark 8:45 am on July 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , naomi klein, political flux, , , shock doctrine,   

    Public Intellectuals and the Shock Doctrine 

    In the last year, I’ve been preoccupied by the relationship between periods of political flux and public intellectualism. These aren’t longer term processes, in which the coordinates of an established consensus begin to disintegrate, but rather short term periods of intense public confusion e.g. the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote or the shock Labour result in the last election. What happens when the established commentators don’t know what’s going on? What happens when large swathes of the population peer beyond the veneer of governance and realise no one is really in charge of the system?

    It is inevitably the case that order is soon resumed and an account of these events is established. However those interstitial moments where a dominant frame has broken down, without any successfully coming to take its place, represent a failure of interpretation with potential influence to be accrued by public intellectuals who can step into the picture and provide a clear and plausible explanation of what is happening i.e. why is this situation so rather than otherwise? This contrasts with the descriptions which the emerging model of intellectualism-as-punditry offers, as political scientists compete to see who can offer the most compelling hot take on the issue foremost on the media agenda.

    It occurs to me when reading Naomi Klein’s new book, No Is Not Enough, what I’ve been calling ‘political flux’ relates to what she characterises as ‘shock’. These failures of interpretation can be brought about deliberately, creating moments in which resistance is untenable because things are moving too fast. But political flux can also emerge as unintended consequences from deliberate shocks, with the shock-architects themselves being taken aback by the consequences of their actions. On pg 6 she describes some of the shocks we are likely to see in the near future, as the Trump administration pursues it agenda:

    it’s also a vision that can be counted on to generate wave after wave of crises and shocks. Economic shocks, as market bubbles—inflated thanks to deregulation—burst; security shocks, as blowback from anti-Islamic policies and foreign aggression comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do when the safety and environmental regulations that prevent chaos are slashed. All this is dangerous. Even more so is the way the Trump administration can be relied upon to exploit these shocks to push through the more radical planks of its agenda. A large-scale crisis—whether a terrorist attack or a financial crash—would likely provide the pretext to declare some sort of state of exception or emergency, where the usual rules no longer apply.

    What role do public intellectuals have here? In alleviating the disorientation shock gives rise to by interpreting the political flux, it’s possible to stake out a new role for public intellectuals which takes advantages of the affordances of social media*. But this also requires linking these moments of flux together, drawing out the connections between the different shocks and articulating a story about how this all fits together. From pg 8:

    we have to tell a different story from the one the shock doctors are peddling, a vision of the world compelling enough to compete head-to-head with theirs. This values-based vision must offer a different path, away from serial shocks—one based on coming together across racial, ethnic, religious, and gender divides, rather than being wrenched further apart, and one based on healing the planet rather than unleashing further destabilizing wars and pollution. Most of all, that vision needs to offer those who are hurting—for lack of jobs, lack of health care, lack of peace, lack of hope—a tangibly better life.

    *Yes, I realise it’s not as simple as simply getting ideas ‘out there’, but that’s a topic for another post.

     
  • Mark 6:31 am on July 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , naomi klein, , politics brands, , , , westminster   

    Brand Corbyn and Brand Trump 

    What do Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump have in common? On the face of it, two people could not be more dissimilar but I’m curious about what might be their analogous position in relation to mainstream political culture. After all, in a sense Corbyn came from outside party politics, albeit not in the way Trump did, being a life-long back bencher and consummate constituency MP who never sought power in any sense. Both reject the common sense of party politics and have in different ways benefitted from a media which is superficially hostile to them.

    Perhaps we can make sense of their commonality in terms of their political brands, both of which have formed quickly in a way that floats free of the manifold pressures which shape self-presentation by those who spent years seeking power through steady ascent of within a political party. Neither learned to walk the walk and talk the talk in the way needed to gain respect and cultivate influence amongst their peers, perhaps avoiding the deformation professionelle to which these colleagues are subject to as a result. They don’t assume that political correspondents are all powerful because they haven’t spent their professional lives seeking coverage from them, as well as being judged by their peers on their success or otherwise in doing so.

    This is what Naomi Klein says of Trump’s political brand on pg 33 of her new book No Is Not Enough:

    It’s also why no labor scandal is ever going to stick to him. In the world he has created, he’s just acting like a “winner”; if someone gets stepped on, they are obviously a loser. And this doesn’t only apply to labor scandals—virtually every traditional political scandal bounces off Trump. That’s because Trump didn’t just enter politics as a so-called outsider, somebody who doesn’t play by the rules. He entered politics playing by a completely different set of rules—the rules of branding. According to those rules, you don’t need to be objectively good or decent; you only need to be true and consistent to the brand you have created. That’s why brand managers are so obsessed with discipline and repetition: once you have identified what your core brand is, your only job is to embody that brand, project that brand, and repeat its message. If you stay focused, very little can touch you.

    This opens up the possibility that what is seen as electabilitystrong leadership and plausibility might actually be little more than weakness in the face of the media. If you’ve built your political brand on performing in a way that wins the media’s favour, you are inevitably subject to their whims. You are constitutively tied to the cluster of journalists, much as they are in turn tied to you through their need for access, leaving politics as a deformed game of intellectual twister taking place on the parliamentary estate. But to be a new brand, emerging quickly in a way external to these dynamics, involves near complete freedom from such influences if you can only ‘stay focused’. Brand Corbyn and Brand Trump couldn’t be more different but there are deep similarities in how and why the media struggle to touch them.

     
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