Book Reviews

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism
Naomi Klein

Book Review by William A. Spriggs
Origin: January 3, 2009

This is perhaps the most important non-evolutionary-based book that I am going to recommend to you because, at its basic core, it reconfirms my theories that behavioral mechanisms behind resource accumulations and the retention of those resources are of far more importance to the most de-evolved of our human species.  Yes, despite millions of years of evolutions, you must take into account that at various layers of social interaction, you will find some of our species to be more highly-evolved in terms of non-primate, violent behavior.  I want you to go my web sub-section page on Politics and Evolution; scroll down a bit until you come to a chart that says: A BROAD BRUSHSTROKE OF POLITICAL THOUGHT IS EMERGING FROM EVOLUTIOANRY THOUGHT COMBINING NATURE (40% ROUGHLY) AND NURTURE (60% ROUGHLY) AS THE BASIC UNDERPINNING OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR, AND THUS, MOTHER TO POLITICAL ORGANIZATIONS, INSTITUTIONS, VALUES, ETHOS, AND POLICIES --THIS ENVIRONMENT IS PRESENTLY CALLED THE BIOCULTURAL PERSPECTIVE. 

If you observe the various cultural phrases or single words associated with a belief memes that are widely known, you can easily see that they neatly fall into two directions of human behavior – the one on the left takes you back toward selfishess and domination by physical strength that sees only the individual as the supreme center; these are behaviors more closely associated with natural selection – the “survival of the fittest” believers.  In the right column you will see behaviors that take us away from the “tooth and claw” behaviors of our biological roots and take us on the high road toward “mental” cooperative behavior amongst of fellow humans  The right column is the nurture side of our behavior; the sexual selection side – the behaviors not needed for just the passage of our genes, but the side that embodies behaviors that enrich our lives such as language, music, and art.

Individuals on the right side of the chart are more generous, open to opinions of others, and well – liberals.  Those on the right side of the chart understand that we do not live alone and that our accomplishments are all part of being helped along the way by someone or some group that is close to us, be it our families, church or synagogue groups, a favorite teacher who had a great interest in us, or, perhaps, a non-profit group that does the work we wish we could aspire to.  No person is born totally independent from their mother’s womb like conservatives what us to think and believe.  These are traits that helped us evolve from the jungle; our deep history ancestors knew that there was a better way of living than just following the winner of dominance confrontations.

The Shock Doctrine captures how elite groups of individuals will do the evilest of deeds in order to acquire wealth and keep that wealth at all costs.  This book is a look at corporate greed done in a devastatingly efficient manner in the name of free markets; all the while showing the least concern for those who get hurt or destroyed.  Money is the aphrodisiac that feeds their lustful need for more and more resources.  It is as if profit were food in a land where the profiteers seem to think that starvation is only a day away.  These are vile serpents, and the only way to rid our species of this vermon is to convince the women who worship the male's resource accumulations to re-evaluate their mating patterns.  Even as an evolutionary feminist, I can not see how women can be attracted to males this vile; the males must hide their sadistic tendencies behind a curtain of domesticity.  Or, perhaps that is the clue to all human dehumanization mechanisms – keeping a wall of separation between us and the poor so that we also don't have to see the damage we do these people’s lives and to falsely give us comfort in our surroundings.  Perhaps, we are all a bit guilty.

I know that these are powerful words, but that is how angry I was after reading The Shock Doctrine.  It reinforced every particle of my beliefs about the slipping of our species into a de-evolved, tooth and claw, survival of the meanest and evilest world where Social Darwinism raises its ugly head.  Even though I know that this period of time from Ronald Reagan to the present G. W. Bush of neo-conservative economic disaster capitalism is merely a micro-second on the evolutionary timeline, it still seems like an eternity because you and I had to live every one of those days.

A long time ago, in our deep history, as Edward Wilson calls it; our species lived in small, equalitarian groups.  We shared our food with our fellow hunters and their mates because, we knew, some day, we might be injured, sick, or worse – our mates may have to live on without us.  We did not hesitate when someone in need came to us and asked for food.  We knew that, by the grace of God, we survived as a group.  Our strength was in our numbers.

But, around 10,000, we changed our patterns of migration and group hunting and began to domestic animals and plant food.  We remained in one general location; many in the evolutionary community believe that it was the female of our species who decided, and males who wanted constant sexual access to the female, agreed to remain in one place.  After all, the evolutionary theory goes, what would be better for raising a child – remain in one place, or be constantly on the move?  Since moving to search for food (migrating to follow the beast) was no longer necessary, and or, perhaps, dangerous to the protector male, why not remain with the food in one location and bend with the evolutionary pressure?

And it worked as evidenced by history -- fertile fields, the domestication of work animals, good climate, better understanding of folk medicines, few human predators or competitors, all combined to create prosperity and good fortune.  That’s the good news; but when the success of farming produced surplus crops, so did the division between good farmers and bad farmers diverge.  Populations rose and started to rub up against each other, so do did misdeeds by those who saw the stored wealth of farm crops as a easy way to gain resources without the work.  Some cheated the system and stole from their fellow humans in order to gain a leg up in the social hierarchies.  The cheating or stealing lead to evolved methods of keeping track in society as to who were the miscreants.  This gave rise to social norms for the protection of those stores of resources.  Homeland security groups? Vigilante groups?  Early concept of protective police forces?

With successful farming came the domestication of chores or duties around the farm as they were divided into masculine and feminine; the female’s choice again?; Or the natural evolution of child raising?   Women of our species, tied to the necessity to do the best for their progeny found it more and more difficult to find available men capable of advancing within those farming hierarchies.  The females found themselves in competition with their fellow sisters, and as Anne Browne points out in her seminal work, A Mind of Her Own: Evolutionary Psychology of Women that women are just as good competitors as men for reproductive resources.  And then the division grew and grew; mated pairs sought refuge with others similar to themselves for comfort and protection.  When families grew larger then the skill needed to remember one’s past ancestors (about 12 generations or 150 names), humankind sought similarities in others like skin color, religious beliefs, military might, and cultural beliefs and art forms.  It didn’t matter what was the social circumstances, the longitude or latitude on the planet, nor the time in the historical time line; it all fit.  The evolutionary pressure to assimilate into the dominate hierarchies was found to be of the best advantage to all parties.  Even the submissives understood intuitively that rising up into the social hierarchy afforded more advantages for themselves, their mates, and their future families.  “Upward mobility,” and “passing” are two popular memes that are never taught in our classrooms, but somehow we all understand the meaning.  So too, do dominants – they understand the power of their position, and do all to remain where they are.

And that is where we, as a species stand right now.  This culture of greed and corruption almost succeeded.  But the fortress of dominance all fell down in the second half of 2008 with the collapse financial markets following the subprime mortgage disaster of the housing markets in late 2007.  This total collapse of the unregulated free markets was propped up by notable economists who were honored where ever they went and were called “Maestros.”  Even the so-call guru of self-regulation had to admit before a Congressional House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, that: “Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholders’ equity, myself included, are in a state of shocked disbelief.” (The New York Times, October 24, 2008, “Greenspan Concedes Error on Regulation.)  While lowering interest rates, the Fed Chairman helped to create a housing boom out of over-inflated housing prices.  This fed a feeding frenzy by lending institutions by handing out loans to persons who really had no stable revenue stream to support their monthly house payments; the gap was filled by borrowing off of “supposedly ever rising real estate values.”  A strong nation had been brought to its knees all because the belief that “greed was good” and that markets – not human forces within those markets – were self-regulating.  America was foolish enough to build its economic future on a house of cards; but no one cared, because “everyone was getting rich.”

But, I digress from the book review about how this fantastic book has detailed for us the enormous global corporate movement to harness greed to its highest point in our humanity.  We must never lose sight that, at the core of this movement, the individuals involved are just an extremely small percentage of the population.

The Shock Doctrine begins slowly by introducing results of brain trauma induced by torture that has been refined down through the eons and passed from dominate groups of people who really believe that if a person is submitted to torture long enough their memories and will power would be wiped clean of reason.  It is at this point that the inflictor of the pain and suffering would be able to introduce new ideas to the victim and easily control those tortured forever.  In a way, it’s a form of mental rape that evolved from our primate chimpanzee ancestor’s obsession with hierarchical dominance through violence. 

The introduction to the book merely begins to put into proper perspective this offensive corporate mental disease as the conservative movement of the prior 35 years.  Ms. Klein invites us to join her in a conversation with a stranger that she had in a big Red Cross tent in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in September 2005.  The time is the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  A natural disaster of biblical proportions that destroyed over 75% of the city -- or should we say, destroyed most of the poor’s known residences.  But not all people saw this as a disaster; the greedy amongst the corporate elite saw it as a fantastic opportunity. 

“ The news racing around the shelter that day was that Richard Baker, a prominent Republican congressman from this city, had told a group of lobbyists, ‘We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans.  We couldn’t do it, but God did.” P. 4.

Ms. Klein then directs us to the fountainhead of this modern neoconservative movement by introducing us to “…Milton Friedman, grand guru of the movement fro unfettered capitalism and the man credited with writing the rulebook for the contemporary, hypermobile global economy.” P. 5.  But, it is at this moment that I must intercede and ask you once again to look at the chart I mentioned above and notice the entire names listed in the historical left ledger.  1784 and & J. G. Herder, 1790, Edmund Burke, 1807, J. G. Fichte, 1817, David Ricardo, 1822, Hegel, 1844, Herbert Spenser, etc.  All these people advocated, in some form or another, the exact same behavior that benefited the wealthy and took from the poor; that wealth should stay with the wealthy and away from those lacking resources.  And I suppose we should go back even farther to Niccolo Machiavelli and the sage advice that: “injuries should be inflicted all at once” to go with the theme of The Shock Doctrine.  It’s really all about kicking ass, and proving that you’re on top in the social hierarchy.  And to make you feel extra special, the added behavior mechanism is to make sure that the person who is suffering the slide into the lower hierarchy knows and acknowledges your dominance and that you are the one responsible for their defeat; humiliation of your subordinate target is a emotional benefit.  In males, it raises their testosterone levels and “makes them feel like real men.”

And so it goes.  The book recounts in incident after incident about the way that corporate greed is spreading around the globe over the past 50 years as it pounces on economies that collapse or have some natural disaster inflicted upon them.  The IMF and World Banks – the one’s with the resources to help—put lasting conservative strings to any assistance – change to an unfettered economy or get no money.  The Shock Doctrine goes into detail about them all -- South Africa, Chile, Peru, Britain under Thatcherism, China, Poland, Russia, Asia, and last but not least, the invasion of Iraq for profit and the attempt to create a pure neoliberal society under the guise of searching for weapons of mass destruction.

I’ve decided not to go into any other detail about The Shock doctrine because my evolutionary perspective is done.  It’s up to you to see the big picture that greed done on a global corporate scale is nothing more than a return to dominance by violence of our ancestor primates.  It will be up to you to inform future generations that there are enough resources available to go around for all of God’s children and that greed is a behavior of the de-evolved past.

I am going to conclude with a quote from the book in which Ms. Klein describes a certain country in the clutches of conservatism, and I want you to guess which country it is:

“…an urban bubble of frenetic speculation and dubious accounting fueling superprofits and frantic consumerism, ringed by the ghostly factories and rotting infrastructure of a development past; roughly half the population excluded from the economy altogether; out-of-control corruption and cronyism; decimation of nationally owned small and medium-sized businesses; a huge transfer of wealth from public to private hands, followed by a huge transfer of private debts into public hands…” p. 106.

No, Ms. Klein was not writing about the U.S, -- but Chile.

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