In October’s Newsletter:
- Naomi’s Speech at Occupy Wall Street: “The Most Important Thing in the World Now”
- Naomi Debates the OWS Protests in the New York Times
- Naomi and Bill McKibben at The Daily Beast :”Obama’s Pipeline Mess”
- Naomi’s Nation Op-Ed on the London Riots: “Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery”
- Check Out Naomi’s Recent Media Appearances to Discuss Occupy Wall Street
- How You Can Donate to Occupy Wall Street
You can subscribe to Naomi Klein’s newsletter and see other material at NaomiKlein.org There is more subscription information further into this newsletter. George Ikners ikners.com
I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on Thursday, October 6. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I said had to be repeated by hundreds of people so others could hear (a.k.a. “the human microphone”), what I actually said at Liberty Plaza had to be very short. With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.
I love you.
And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout “I love you” back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.
Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: “We found each other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.
If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.
And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say “No. We will not pay for your crisis.”
That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile where the crisis began.
“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?” “We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.” And most of all: “Welcome.”
Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalization protests that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999. That was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am proud to have been part of what we called “the movement of movements.”
But there are important differences too. For instance, we chose summits as our targets: the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G8. Summits are transient by their nature, they only last a week. That made us transient too. We’d appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. And in the frenzy of hyper patriotism and militarism that followed the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.
Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It’s because they don’t have roots. And they don’t have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.
Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen.
Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately. And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality. Which we saw more of just last night. Meanwhile, support for this movement grows and grows. More wisdom.
But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom. Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging. The media was drunk on easy money. Back then it was all about start-ups, not shut downs.
We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a price. It was damaging to labor standards. It was damaging to environmental standards. Corporations were becoming more powerful than governments and that was damaging to our democracies. But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.
Ten years later, it seems as if there aren’t any more rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.
The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.
These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.
We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite—fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful—the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.
The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society—while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.
What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I’m not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that’s important.
I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it’s also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.
That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and proving health care, meditation classes and empowerment training. My favorite sign here says “I care about you.” In a culture that trains people to avoid each other’s gaze, to say, “Let them die,” that is a deeply radical statement.
A few final thoughts. In this great struggle, here are some things that don’t matter.
—What we wear.
—Whether we shake our fists or make peace signs.
—Whether we can fit our dreams for a better world into a media soundbite.
And here are a few things that do matter.
—Our moral compass.
—How we treat each other.
We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets—like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.
Don’t give in to the temptation. I’m not saying don’t call each other on shit. But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less.
Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.
Note: Naomi’s speech also appeared in the Occupied Wall Street Journal.
Learning From Globalization Protests
By Naomi Klein, The New York Times, October 6, 2011
Naomi was asked by the New York Times to contribute to an edition of “Room for Debate” about Occupy Wall Street: “The protesters are getting more attention and expanding outside New York. What are they doing right, and what are they missing?” Here is her response.
I can’t help but compare the Occupy Wall Street protests to the movements that sprang up against corporate globalization at the end of 1990s, most visibly at the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle. Like today’s protests, those demonstrations were also marked by innovative coalitions among students, trade unions and environmentalists.
Here are the things I think today’s activists are doing better than we did back then. We chose summits as our targets: the W.T.O., the International Monetary Fund, the G-8. Summits are transient by nature, and that made us transient too. We’d appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. After the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.
Today’s protesters have chosen a fixed target: Wall Street, a symbol of the corporate takeover of democracy. And they have put no end date on their presence. This gives them time to put down roots, which is going to make it a lot harder to sweep them away, even if they get kicked out of one physical space.
Something else they are doing right: they have committed themselves to nonviolence and to being good neighbors to local businesses. That means broken windows and street fights aren’t upstaging the message in the media. And when police attack peaceful occupiers (and the protesters catch it on camera), it generates tremendous sympathy for the cause.
A lot of people seem very agitated about the fact that this movement doesn’t have a list of soundbite-ready demands and media-ready spokespeople. Personally I’m delighted that Occupy Wall Street hasn’t given in to the hectoring for a list of “demands.” This is a young movement still in the process of determining just how powerful it is, and that power will determine what demands are possible. Small movements have to settle for small reforms: big ones have the freedom to dream.
Obama’s Pipeline Mess
By Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben, The Daily Beast, October 8, 2011
There’s no denying that the Solyndra drama stinks—when you have executives taking the Fifth and a political appointee pushing for loan restructuring while his wife works for the company’s law firm, it’s pretty clear that it won’t end well. The fact that the company made solar panels doesn’t make it any better—green cronyism is still cronyism.
But there’s a far, far bigger Obama cronyism scandal breaking—and in this case, there’s still time for the president to step in and stop it.
The story started coming out a few weeks ago when Nebraska activists preparing for State Department hearings on the Keystone XL pipeline noticed something odd. The hearings were actually being run by a private company called Cardno Entrix—their name was even at the bottom of the State Department official website. If you wanted to send in public comments, you sent them to the company.
Upon further investigation, they learned two things: Cardno Entrix had in fact been contracted to run the entire environmental-review process for the pipeline. And if you go to the Cardno Entrix corporate website, it lists one of their major clients as TransCanada, the very company building the pipeline. That’s almost unbelievable.
But The New York Times took the story a step further yesterday. It turns out that TransCanada actually recommended the firm to the State Department, and that TransCanada had “managed the bidding process” that ended up picking Entrix. As the Times put it, with considerable understatement, the arrangement involved “flouting the intent of a federal law meant to ensure an impartial environmental analysis of major projects.” They quoted a Tulane law professor who specializes in environmental oversight who spoke in plainer language: Cardno Entrix had a “financial interest in the outcome of the project. Their primary loyalty is getting this project through, in the way the client wants.”
In other words: The pipeline company recommended the firm they wanted to review them, a firm that listed the pipeline company as one of their major clients. Perhaps—just perhaps—that explains why the review found that Keystone XL would have “limited adverse environmental impacts,” a finding somewhat at odds with the conclusion of 20 of the nation’s top scientists who wrote the president this summer to say it would be an environmental disaster.
And perhaps it’s why the report notes only briefly in an addendum the disastrous spill of tar sands oil in the Kalamazoo River last year—35 miles of the river remains closed, and so far the taxpayers have shelled out $500 million to help clean up. Is there any way (besides reading the newspapers and talking to local officials) that Cardno Entrix could possibly have known about the Kalamazoo spill? Well yes. Cardno Entrix—get ready for it—was in fact hired by that pipeline company to assess the damage of that spill.
This is quite possibly the biggest potential scandal of the Obama years. But there’s a danger that it will go ignored for three reasons.
First, it’s so incredibly blatant that it’s hard to believe—neither of us are naifs, but we are still astonished that they’d show their industry bias this clearly. There were plenty of other signs, of course—emails released last week, for instance, showed Department officials cheerleading for the pipeline. But the Entrix connection is truly mind-boggling. It’s the kind of thing Dick Cheney might have done, on a particularly sloppy day.
Second, the Republicans that have done such a noisy job of drawing attention to Solyndra will, we predict, studiously ignore the Keystone scandal. Why? Because the project’s biggest backers include the Chamber of Commerce and the Koch Brothers. We’re guessing cronyism gets a pass when it’s on behalf of the oil industry—in slightly less obvious guises, the old boy network has been steering subsidies to the fossil-fuel industry for decades.
Third, the officials in charge seem utterly unconcerned about the conflicts of interest that have plagued this project from the start. Hillary Clinton has stood by while her former deputy campaign manager took a job as TransCanada’s chief lobbyist; stories late last week on DeSmogBlog found several big-money bundlers from Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign working for lobbyists under contract to TransCanada.
And Obama? Obama’s said nothing about Keystone all year long. Not when 1,253 people were arrested outside his door in late summer, the biggest civil-disobedience protests in 30 years. Not when 10 of his fellow Nobel Peace laureates wrote to tell him the pipeline was immoral. Not now that this scandal is breaking, even though he promised the “most transparent” administration ever.
We already knew that Keystone XL was filthy in environmental terms. James Hansen, our foremost climatologist, said earlier this year that if the Canadian tar sands are heavily tapped, it’s “essentially game over for the climate.”
But now it turns out to be just as filthy politically. Filthy on a scale that demands real action—at the very least, Barack Obama must demand a new, thoroughly independent, expert review of the project. Better yet, he should use it as the perfect excuse to pull the plug on the whole damn project.
Think about how lousy Obama looks in those pictures celebrating Solynda’s brand-new factory. Now imagine how much worse he will look after Keystone XL spills for the first time, and the media remembers that TransCanada got to pick a company it had in its back pocket to conduct the environmental review.
Here’s the little bit of contingent good news: The crime is still in progress. It’s as if TransCanada has robbed the bank, but the getaway car is stuck in traffic. Obama can still make the arrest. If he doesn’t, we’ll know an awful lot about him. Maybe more than we really want to.
Daylight Robbery, Meet Nighttime Robbery
By Naomi Klein, The Nation, August 16, 2011
I keep hearing comparisons between the London riots and riots in other European cities—window smashing in Athens or car bonfires in Paris. And there are parallels, to be sure: a spark set by police violence, a generation that feels forgotten.
But those events were marked by mass destruction; the looting was minor. There have, however, been other mass lootings in recent years, and perhaps we should talk about them too. There was Baghdad in the aftermath of the US invasion—a frenzy of arson and looting that emptied libraries and museums. The factories got hit too. In 2004 I visited one that used to make refrigerators. Its workers had stripped it of everything valuable, then torched it so thoroughly that the warehouse was a sculpture of buckled sheet metal.
Back then the people on cable news thought looting was highly political. They said this is what happens when a regime has no legitimacy in the eyes of the people. After watching for so long as Saddam and his sons helped themselves to whatever and whomever they wanted, many regular Iraqis felt they had earned the right to take a few things for themselves. But London isn’t Baghdad, and British Prime Minister David Cameron is hardly Saddam, so surely there is nothing to learn there.
How about a democratic example then? Argentina, circa 2001. The economy was in freefall and thousands of people living in rough neighborhoods (which had been thriving manufacturing zones before the neoliberal era) stormed foreign-owned superstores. They came out pushing shopping carts overflowing with the goods they could no longer afford—clothes, electronics, meat. The government called a “state of siege” to restore order; the people didn’t like that and overthrew the government.
Argentina’s mass looting was called El Saqueo—the sacking. That was politically significant because it was the very same word used to describe what that country’s elites had done by selling off the country’s national assets in flagrantly corrupt privatization deals, hiding their money offshore, then passing on the bill to the people with a brutal austerity package. Argentines understood that the saqueo of the shopping centers would not have happened without the bigger saqueo of the country, and that the real gangsters were the ones in charge.
But England is not Latin America, and its riots are not political, or so we keep hearing. They are just about lawless kids taking advantage of a situation to take what isn’t theirs. And British society, Cameron tells us, abhors that kind of behavior.
This is said in all seriousness. As if the massive bank bailouts never happened, followed by the defiant record bonuses. Followed by the emergency G-8 and G-20 meetings, when the leaders decided, collectively, not to do anything to punish the bankers for any of this, nor to do anything serious to prevent a similar crisis from happening again. Instead they would all go home to their respective countries and force sacrifices on the most vulnerable. They would do this by firing public sector workers, scapegoating teachers, closing libraries, upping tuitions, rolling back union contracts, creating rush privatizations of public assets and decreasing pensions—mix the cocktail for where you live. And who is on television lecturing about the need to give up these “entitlements”? The bankers and hedge-fund managers, of course.
This is the global Saqueo, a time of great taking. Fueled by a pathological sense of entitlement, this looting has all been done with the lights left on, as if there was nothing at all to hide. There are some nagging fears, however. In early July, the Wall Street Journal, citing a new poll, reported that 94 percent of millionaires were afraid of “violence in the streets.” This, it turns out, was a reasonable fear.
Of course London’s riots weren’t a political protest. But the people committing nighttime robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious.
The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered—a union job, a good affordable education—being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.
David Cameron’s response to the riots is to make this locking-out literal: evictions from public housing, threats to cut off communication tools and outrageous jail terms (five months to a woman for receiving a stolen pair of shorts). The message is once again being sent: disappear, and do it quietly.
At last year’s G-20 “austerity summit” in Toronto, the protests turned into riots and multiple cop cars burned. It was nothing by London 2011 standards, but it was still shocking to us Canadians. The big controversy then was that the government had spent $675 million on summit “security” (yet they still couldn’t seem to put out those fires). At the time, many of us pointed out that the pricey new arsenal that the police had acquired—water cannons, sound cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets—wasn’t just meant for the protesters in the streets. Its long-term use would be to discipline the poor, who in the new era of austerity would have dangerously little to lose.
This is what David Cameron got wrong: you can’t cut police budgets at the same time as you cut everything else. Because when you rob people of what little they have, in order to protect the interests of those who have more than anyone deserves, you should expect resistance—whether organized protests or spontaneous looting.
And that’s not politics. It’s physics.
While in New York visiting Occupy Wall Street over the past week, Naomi had the opportunity to discuss the movement on a number of great programs that you can watch and listen to online. She talked about the dismissive media coverage of the protests with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, and she discussed the significance and potential of the growing movement on Rachel Maddow with guest host Ezra Klein, as well as on MSNBC’s Up with Chris Hayes. (On Part 2 of her Up with Chris Hayes appearance, Naomi and her fellow panelists also pondered the legacy of Steve Jobs, recalling some of the themes of No Logo, as well as the Solyndra “scandal” and recent developments in the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.) Naomi also discussed Occupy Wall Street with Citizen Radio and the Majority Report’s Sam Seder, which you can listen to here, and in a “Great Minds” interview on The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann (you can watch Part 1 here and Part 2 here).
For anyone wishing to support the Occupy Wall Street protestors in Liberty Plaza, New York City, there are several ways to donate. You can give directly to the NYC General Assembly helping to organize the occupation; you can also order food (preferably vegan and vegetarian) from a number of local restaurants to be delivered to the Plaza, or you can sign up to host laundry and showers for the protestors. Click here for more information about all of these options. Of course, you can also donate yourself bycoming to Liberty Plaza and joining the movement – click here to find a carpool to the protests — or by learning more about the Occupy Wall Street-inspired actions happening all across the United States, in Canada, and worldwide.
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- Robert Creamer: Five Reasons the Occupy Wall Street Movement Really Frightens the Right (huffingtonpost.com)
- Why Occupy Wall Street isn’t about a list of demands (money.cnn.com)
- Occupy Wall Street – one woman’s fight (rt.com)
- PHOTOS: The Cute Shirtless Dudes of Occupy Wall Street (queerty.com)
- Slavoj Zizek Joins Occupy Wall Street (huffingtonpost.com)
- #OccupyWallStreet (mg312.wordpress.com)
- Demetria Irwin: Occupying Wall Street 140 Characters at a Time (huffingtonpost.com)
- Occupy Wall Street, Get Free Pizza! (restrow.wordpress.com)
- Occupy Wall Street: The “Millionaires March” (huffingtonpost.com)
- Occupy Wall Street protests come to London (guardian.co.uk)