By Liz Moore, PJALS Director
Since 45 won the electoral college, SHOCK has been a daily re-occurrence! Shock Doctrine author Naomi Klein has a diagnosis and a prescription, and it’s so useful I want to share it with you here.
After a shocking event – a war, coup, terrorist attack, market crash or natural disaster, right-wing governments exploit the public’s disorientation, suspend democracy, and push through radical “free market” policies that enrich the 1 percent at the expense of the poor and middle class. In the US now, the Trump-Pence administration is creating chaos on a daily basis, and some savvy people around Trump are using the daily shocks as cover to advance wildly pro-corporate policies.
1. Know what’s coming. If a horror like the one in Manchester took place on US soil, we can expect Trump to impose some sort of State of Exception or Emergency where the usual rules of democracy no longer apply. Protests and strikes that block roads and airports, like the ones that sprang up to resist the Muslim travel ban, would likely be declared a threat to national security. Protest organizers would be targeted under anti-terror legislation with surveillance, arrest, and imprisonment.
With public signs of dissent suppressed, the truly toxic to-do list would quickly bubble up: bring in the feds to pacify the streets, muzzle investigative journalism. The courts, who Trump would inevitably blame for the attacks, might well lose their courage. And the most lethal shock we need to prepare for: a push for a full-blown foreign war. And, no, (of course) it won’t matter if the target has no connection to the attacks used to justify it.
Preparing for all this is crucial. If we know what to expect, we won’t be that shocked. We’ll just be pissed.
2. Get out of your home and defy the bans. What we know from other countries is that there is only one way to respond to authoritarianism: Disobey en masse. In Argentina in 2001, in Madrid in 2004, people responded with mass protests as well as voting. Many Spaniards said they did it because their prime minister reminded them of Franco, Spain’s former dictator.
3. Know your history. Throughout U.S. history, national crises have been used to suspend constitutional protections and attack basic rights. After the Civil War, with the nation in crisis, the promise of 40 acres and a mule to freed slaves was promptly betrayed. In the midst of the pain and panic of the Great Depression, as many as 2 million people of Mexican descent were expelled from the United States. After the Pearl Harbor attacks, around 120,000 Japanese Americans were jailed in internment camps.
If an attack on U.S. soil were perpetrated by people who were not white and Christian, we can be pretty damn sure that racists would have a field day. And the good folks of Man-chester recently showed us how to respond to that: with protests and clear messages against xeno-phobia and racism!
4. Always follow the money, something else we know from history. While everyone is focused on security and civil liberties, Trump’s Cabinet of billionaires will try to quietly push through even more extreme measures to enrich themselves and their class, like dismantling Social Security or auctioning off major pieces of government for profit.
When the floodwaters were still rising in New Orleans, one of the governor’s first official acts was to fire all the teachers. It was a raid of the money set aside for public education to be given to private companies. It wasn’t by happenstance. It was by design: political manipulations taking advantage of the crisis.
It’s in those moments when fear and chaos are sucking up all the oxygen when we most have to ask: Whose interests are being served by the chaos? What is being slipped through while we’re distracted? Who’s getting richer, and who’s getting even poorer?
5. Advance a bold counterplan. At their best, all the previous steps can only slow down attempts to exploit crisis. If we actually want to defeat this tactic, opponents of the shock doctrine need to move quickly to put forward a credible alternate plan. It needs to get at the root of why these sorts of crises are hitting us with ever greater frequency. And that means we have to talk about militarism, climate change and deregulated markets.
More than that, we need to advance and fight for different models, ones grounded in racial, economic and gender justice, ones that hold out the credible promise of a tangibly better and fairer life in the here and now and a safer planet for all of us in the long term.
Here’s a bold counterplan that’s giving me real hope and excitement:
Earlier this month, Shar and I spent the day with Rev. William Barber, a leader of North Carolina’s Moral Mondays movement. Rev. Barber is re-launching Rev. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign!
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival has emerged from more than a decade of work by grassroots community and religious leaders, organizations and movements fighting to end systemic racism, poverty, militarism, environmental destruction & related injustices and to build a just, sustainable and participatory society. The Campaign aims to build a broad and deep national moral movement — rooted in the leadership of poor people and reflecting the great moral teachings — to unite our country from the bottom up.
The Poor People’s Campaign brings a depth, vision, and scale that I believe has the real potential to “shock the heart of the nation,” in Rev. Barber’s words, to change the national narrative and genuinely build grassroots movement power.
The Campaign will launch in Spring 2018 around the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. Through highly publicized direct actions in a coordinated “Season of Moral Resistance” in at least 25 states, the Campaign will force a serious national examination of the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, militarism and environmental devastation during a key election year while strengthening and connecting informed and committed grassroots leadership in every state, increasing our collective power to continue this fight beyond the next election and into the future.
Watch for updates and find out more at poorpeoplescampaign.org