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Naomi Klein, and Agreeing to Disagree

February 15, 2009

Nice piece in The Star today on Naomi Klein, who is presented as typical of a Canadian who is “a celebrity abroad but is mostly ignored at home.” I’m not sure how true that is (although her tour schedule lists three U.S. dates and no Canadian ones), but it’s nice to see this sort of high profile recognition in Canada, especially now that so many of her ‘crazy ideas’ are proving to be prescient.

She is a once hopeful and skeptical about Barack Obama and his economic plan.

“Obama is an important change from Bush, and the reason why he is important is that he is susceptible to pressure from everyone. He is susceptible to pressure from Wall Street, to pressure from the weapons companies, from the Washington establishment. But unlike Bush and (Dick) Cheney, I don’t think he’d ignore mass protest.

“The irony is that just at the very moment when that kind of grassroots organizing and mobilization could have an impact, we are demobilizing and waiting for the good acts to be handed down from on high, whether it is the withdrawal from Iraq or the perfect economic stimulus package.”

I found it interesting that one of the first comments on this piece (9:57 a.m.) challenges the characterization of Klein as a “Star Left-Winger” and indeed the entire notion of left-vs-right as overly simplistic and dismissive in today’s complex political and economic reality. Indeed, Klein’s own concerns about Obama and her dismay at how Americans seem to have forgotten Bill Clinton’s own pro-corporate policies seem to defy traditional notions of ‘left’ and ‘right’.

I am finding more and more that words like these serve as an excellent excuse to stop listening to one another. We are so keen to label writers, pundits, ideas, and even whole media outlets as left or right, socialist or capitalist, conservative or liberal, that we end up separating into ideological camps made up of people who already agree with us and simply shutting the rest out.

Ironically, one of Klein’s chief complaints against Obama is his choice of former Clinton advisor Larry Summers to his economic team – a man with whom she strenuously disagrees. And yet, Obama has said from day one that he wants to surround himself with people he disagrees with so they can challenge his ideas and assumptions to see how well they hold up.

It’s an approach I’m learning to appreciate.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2009 5:11 pm

    I was blind until early this year, yet I find it inexcusable that I did not discover the work of Naomi Klein sooner. So far, I have read The Shock Doctrine and have now heard a couple of her presentations. I look forward to No Logo and her various articles, as I discover them. I am recommending her writings at every opportunity.

  2. marakardasnelson permalink*
    February 17, 2009 9:48 am

    I find Naomi Klein’s comments about needing to use grassroots approaches at this time rather than sit back and letting the “messiah” fix our problems especially poignant. As I’ve stated before on Canada’s World, the ironic thing about Obama’s election is the incredible amount of grassroots organising that was required to mobilise the vote. Ironically many of the people who organised so ferociously for Obama are now sitting idly by, waiting for him to enact all of his campaign promises. I agree with Klein that Obama will likely be more responsive to civil society actions, and therefore now is not the time for complacency but rather the BEST time to act. Ironically yet understandably, people are most vociferous when underneath an administration who is unresponsive to protests and dissent, and most quiet with an administration who might really listen. This demonstrates reactive tactics. Of course people will stand up and shout when they’re angry, but it’s more important and more effective for criticism to come at a time when such critique may actually be taken to heart. Canadian and global civil society and government must take Obama’s time in office not as an automatic period of reform, but rather an opportunity to finally act on issues like the UN, the environment, the US military, etc.

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