Thursday, December 20, 2007

Book Review of Klein's 'the Shock Doctrine'

by Minerva L. Williams

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Metropolitan Books, Henry, Holt & Company, NY, NY. 576 pages, released Sept 18, 2007.

 ISBN-10: 0805079831 (hard cover)  ISBN-13: 978-0805079838 (soft cover).

Only a crisis actual or perceived produces real change, when that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depends on the ideas that are lying around--- Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman’s doctrine and the University of Chicago School of Business reference to “trickle down theory”, “free trade” and “shock and awe” are considered unpopular in most democratic circles. Could Klein be right that the fundamental position of “shock and awe” and showing how it is a 35-year old concept introduced in 1973 by international war criminal and dictator Augusto Pinochet’s in his take over of Chile by the consultation with the economist Milton Friedman (working for the CIA) is alive and well in 2007?

Klein, a Canadian author and journalist says she questioned the metaphor “shock and awe” and traced its origin. The theoretical findings lead her to Pinochet realizing that the Friedman had the inside track of overthrowing Salvador Allende, the President of Chile in 1973. The first overthrow had to come from the military guard for the removal from Allende. The second overthrow would come with the removal of power to a limited few and suspending the Constitution and “the way business was conducted” by controlling the handling the raw goods and capital to a controlled few.

Milton Friedman proposed the shock doctrine and it is not being fully revealed by the United State citizens but the Chileans have been aware since 1973.

“Shock and Awe” doctrine is the capacity to cause “disaster capitalism” which represents the privatization core and being an expenditure of before tax dollars to prevent the social and human right benefits to the poor and middle class and denying their availability for the public good. This goes back to the Reagan administration who utilized the extensive expenditures of the military to absorb tax dollars, decrease taxes to the wealthy 10% of the population and referring to this tax base as a process of “trickle down theory”. Reagan didn’t accomplish his mission. The Bush II Administration appears to be accomplishing what Reagan didn’t. Klein says we only have to look at the natural and planned disasters the neo-conservatives have had the opportunities to spend tax dollars to remove tax dollar usage for the public and common good. “You have the expenditure going to the controlled privatization groups who consume tax usage depleting social agencies or programs by referring to them as to ’socialized medicine and programs’,” Klein says. She continues that though the cold war has ended years ago, many Americans don’t want to be associated with the Russian cold war or Marxist policies.

There seems to be a play on words where the neo-conservatives refer to anything that doesn’t follow their doctrine as propaganda. The means to illustrate that we are moving into a “socialized” society often implies to most Americans that to do so is an abomination on democracy and freedom. However when we look more closely we see that these limited few are taking hold of awarded contracts that look more than democratic but socialized when you consider there are a few separate groups or “pirates” who provide the privatized services or products by being “gifted” or “winning” no bid contracts without competition and attaining the monopoly in services through a region. Well by definition alone, if no one else has the ability to bid, there isn’t any competition, and the awardees become the omnipotent supplier of the service or produce at any given price they choose, by definition you are devising a “socialized monopoly”.

With interest, a video that complements her book, made by Klein and Alphonso Cuaron, her co-producer, refers to how the “shock and awe” is found in the recent declassified CIA 1940’s medical and psychology studies funded in 1963 and 1983 interrogation manual on how to break or “softening” prisoners down to a child-like state or socially repressed.

Here I could vouch and say to the recent psychology classes I attended at CSUC, that these electro-shock treatments were used to break a psychologically disturbed person’s mind down to a blank slate allowing the doctor to imprint a more “healthy personality”, by erasing all terrible memories of the past. Shock treatment studies become a vehicle to studying what would it take to “remake” a person by shocking them into “the preferred” viable person.

The theory for the individual state is that the uncooperative individuals are first seized at a loud arousal (awakening) state, unexpectedly and in such a disruptive manner to cause unexpected chaos, confusion and anxiety. The person is immediately blinded with full light and then immediately thrown into darkness, aggressively physically handled, blind-folded, handcuffed, mouth taped, then hooded and rapidly removed from the known setting to another so that their orientation of north, south, east, and west is totally off. Sometimes medication is induced that numbs the captive from voluntarily moving their arms and legs. The person is not allowed to converse with other captors and feared into believing their captors are their enemies. Families are split up. By constantly moving the individual the subject isn’t allowed time to recover from the shock but is left in a state of anguish and frustration not knowing what to anticipate. Food, water, and medical attention are rationed. Constant and abrupt disruptive sleep is induced. Pain administration is intermittent through swats, beatings, fire hoses, pinches, cigarette butts (into the skin) hanging upside down and other awkward physical positions. Eventually the captured experiences mental, “water drowning”, and other psychological torture such as binding the person while hearing, seeing, or being directly near verbal and physical abuse on immediate family members or loved ones. The purpose of all of these administrative acts is to cause immediate resounding compliance from the witness. But how do you apply this to a nation of people?

Elevated through studies by Milton Friedman and his disciples, they recommended a collective trauma that would manipulate an entire nation’s economic outcome. This can be done by war, terrorist attacks, and military coupes, induced and natural disasters. Milton Friedman’s doctrine has been referred to as “trickle down theory”, “shock and awe” although unpopular in most democratic circles, it remains to be seen the overall effect of a countries’ economic long run progression.

According to Klein with larger controlled shocks efforts done simultaneously with the added dimension of fear (the unknown), the gradual diminishing of resources (taking personal property), and the awkward frustration of believing there isn’t any way out (isolation) but those solutions being offered by the “saviors” or leaders who ascend to the level of parent, guardian and protectors as the way of life not previously embraced. What the captors don’t realize is the leaders are causing the disruption of services and products which eventually become difficult to believe or denied by the captors even when revealed. Friedman, she adds, encourages political leaders, “it is then that you push the economic envelope imposing legislation before providing services to replenished people.

Klein doesn’t stop here, she provides historical examples of where these principals have been used: 1989 China "Tiananmen Square" human-civil rights; 1982 Falklands-UK, 1989 Polish-Russian work crisis, 1993 Russia financial crisis, 1994 South African redistribution, Tequila Crisis in Mexico, 2001 New York’s 9/11, 2004 Sri Lanka, 2005 Katrina land redevelopment crisis.

You believe you are reading a histopic future when she refers to the “green zone” in Iraq. You question whether or not it is a working sci-fi experiment going on where soldiers of fortune protect the city which has its own water, gas, electricity, pristine hospitals and living areas built by Bechtel while the area right outside of it is diminished to ruble, decay and desert. You begin to wonder did these residents buy their way out of the disastrous situation within hearing range? She asks as seen in areas of Iraq and in New Orleans, “what are their race and money by survival?” I wondered, “can you buy yours way out of a disaster, at what cost, and how long before the urgent experiment becomes a way of life?

But Klein continues that shock doesn’t last forever. The now late Nobel Prize laureate Friedman knew with time and healing, slowly the human spirit regains memory which is why it is so important to keep the psychological pressure on the population. Klein painfully warns that “that there is an urgent need that ideologies are married for the common good before it is too late”. When I sat back and analyzed all that she said, I too wondered, is the painful experiment taking shape in America while not only Iraq’s were shocked and awed but American are being shocked into a complacency or lulled into believing that there is a tomorrow for the rich, a tomorrow for the poor and a huge squeeze of the middle class and that Bush is really our savior?

I encourage you to read this book with an open mind for yourself and see if you find any parallels in her claims or have we “succumbed to the acute state of intellectual preparedness” that questions our strength of democratic conviction and acceptance of military brutal force for resources that can be diplomatically acquired when one trumpets the values of a free world.

Currently that same question is being raised right here in Castaic where the preservations of very expensive homes were doused with fire retardant so they wouldn’t burn. While lesser valued homes were left to the owners to fend for themselves.

Klein is a columnist for Nation Magazine, a journalist for the London Guardian Newspaper and the author of several other books: No Logo, Fences and Windows and the abridged audio book and audio CD versions of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism 2007 are available at ISBN-10: 1427200882; ISBN-13: 978-1427200884 respectfully.


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