I first came across Naomi Klein after the the inauguration of President Donald J.Trump, which frankly left me bewildered. I needed to understand what I had missed in Trump’s appeal. I did not choose Naomi’s book “No is Not Enough”, not because it is not worth reading but because I needed something that described in lurid detail, his rise as a businessman. Having found it and read it, I did not want to read another book about “The Donald”. I do not feel comfortable in maligning the President of the United States, but the opinion that I formed of Donald Trump was that he was not altruistic.
Early Sunday afternoon, I lazily browsed the selection of events at the Brooklyn Boor Fair, debating with myself whether or not, it was worth the hour long drive and the price of parking, et voilà! there she was! “Naomi Klein”. “Tis a sign!” I muttered to myself and off I went.
It was all very genteel at the Brooklyn Historical Society Library; a gentle line had formed and a lady with a clicker could predict how many of us would fit inside. At 4:55pm we took our seats and very shortly afterwards, Naomi Klein and Bhaskar Sunkara took up their appointed positions at a raised table. Bhaskar (sharp and intelligent) made a short introduction, describing “The Donald” as somebody he had known as a local warlord, complimented Naomi on speed with which she had written “No is Not Enough” and let Naomi speak.
Here, I will be a little curt….almost all of what Naomi had to say can be seen on YouTube…..but these are the important points: Donald Trump realized from an early age in his business career that his persona or image as perceived by others was his most valuable asset. He could use it to leverage his meager “hard” assets and get concessions from municipal and federal authorities or loans from banks. He learnt to use his name and the money of others to build a business empire.
In time, Donald Trump learnt to become a “lifestyle brand”. In the past manufacturers would create an aura around their product to improve sales. “Lifestyle brands” like “Nike” or “Ralph Lauren” or “Ikea” allude to a way of life that requires multiple components (products and services) to be successfully realized. We all have a hole in our soul that can never be filled, so we are naturally attracted these “lifestyle brands” (my addition).
Marketing himself at a national level through the game show “The Apprentice” was Donald Trump’s spring-board to the presidency. Donald Trump did not win the election as much as the Democratic party, and Hillary Clinton in particular, lost the election. In absolute terms, Hillary got more votes and the archaic Electoral College ( which was set up to protect slave owners) made Donald president.
Whereas, President Trump is perceived as a somebody who is unable to use the political apparatus in cooperation with others to enable legislation, behind the scenes his appointees are working hard to dismantle Obamacare, to reverse legislation that protect the environment. His appointees are conservative, anti-immigration and aggressively pro-business. We are fools if we believe that nothing is being changed.
“The Shock Doctrine”. This is a brutally effective tool used by right wing governments. After a disaster, democratic rights are suspended (something that we will read about in “The Handmaid’s Tale”) and power is concentrated in the hands of a powerful minority.
The democratic rights that we enjoy in the United States are not the natural state of affairs in world history. They are very much the exception. If we are not aware of the threats to our democratic rights and if we do not vigorously defend them, they will be eroded under whatever pretext will be used by those who crave power, be they private corporations or political groups.
What is the answer?… saying “No!” is not enough. A two year-old can say “No!”.We need a viable alternative! A platform that appeals to a wide swath of the populace in the United States. A vision that will truly empower the downtrodden, that will genuinely release the unused potential of those in the United States who have been taught that they have no potential.
“Democracy is talking itself to death. The people do not know what they want; they do not know what is the best for them. There is too much foolishness, too much lost motion. I have stopped the talk and the nonsense. I am a man of action. Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy. You in America will see that some day.”