“Only a crisis actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas lying around. That I believe is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable” Milton Friedman . Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism quotes Friedman, an economist and a Nobel laureate whom she regards as the “grand guru of the movement for unfettered Capitalism and the man credited for writing the rule book for the contemporary, hyper-mobile global economy”.
But in all honesty what is capitalism? And how does it affect the likes of you and me? Well, Capitalism is basically the belief in the free market and that Government involvement in society should be reduced to only a fraction of what it is presently. In Friedman’s case “to protect the country and provide soldiers”.
Friedman on the other hand doesn’t view himself as a Capitalist or an Anarchist; but a Libertarian in whose view liberty encompasses a free market.
Whilst this is not a book review, I would like to add that Klein later translates the word capitalism into the contemporary morphs of this ideology: Corporatism.
Friedman’s vision is to manipulate “events” that shock us into attention to make what is “politically impossible” in a democracy into “politically inevitable”, thereby undermining or cancelling the democratic process altogether with a person or a group of people deciding what laws should govern societies without adequately consulting the affected society
Friedman and his Disciples would stand on the sidelines waiting for the crisis to unfold so that they can rush through their policies whilst the city or country was reeling in shock from the disastrous “event” that had occurred. This, they insist is the only opportunity that a government will get to forcefully enforce policies on the masses. Klein names this: the shock doctrine. Klein uses the example of how Hurricane Katrina was used to slip through the privatisation of a big chunk of the public school system in the US whilst keeping schools publicly funded. This was a scheme hatched by Friedman as a death bed proposal because he viewed public education as an aspect of socialism.
Klein compares the effects of electro- shock on patients used as “lab rats” in a series of experiments developed by CIA psychiatrist Dr Ewen Cameron. The aim of these experiments was to create a blank piece of paper in the patients mind using the electro- shock method and then to imprint new ideas onto the minds of the patients and teach them new habits as these patients lost both their long term and short term memories. Dr. Cameron’s experiments were further developed by Dr. Donald Hebb into torture methods including the infamous Guantanamo “water boarding” which was created by Hebb and “refined” by Cameron. Friedman and his disciples do not see the human sacrifice; they only see the potential for economical gain. However, it is not only shock that is used by governments and social engineers to dictate changes to the masses. Other distractions can be equally potent. In the ancient Greco-Roman empire, recreation and amusement were equally used to distract the masses and surreptitiously introduce unpopular laws and policies and even launch wars.
Today, our federal government is introducing laws that further intrude into our privacy. The government, or its agencies want to force internet service providers (ISPs) to retain data about every keystroke we make whether by computer or smart phone for a period of two years and to make this data readily available to security agencies. In the past, Google went to court to challenge similar laws in the US, but the lawmakers, whether here or there, seem bent on introducing totalitarian measures in a “democratic” society. In Australia, the deadline for public feedback is the first week in August. This year, August brought the biggest global distraction that exists, the spectacle of the Olympic Games, developed in ancient Greece; seem to be the “perfect” catalyst for these totalitarian laws.
What keeps free society free is the vigilance of its citizens. This vigilance must be most alert during both crises and distractions.