Paul writes – I’ve read a couple of great papers over the last week. One by a theologian / thinker / activist, Brian Walsh (soon to be in the UK with Sylvia, his wife), whom I have a huge regard for, and another thinker / activist I hadn’t heard of – Ericka Stephens-Rennie. The content of this latter paper was reinforced by an interview I heard yesterday on National Radio (can be heard here. It's the interview with Jan Jordan, Senior Lecturer in Criminology - go to the "podcast" page if you want to download. You'll also find an interview with Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson).
Both reflect in different ways with Naomi Klein’s most recent book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Walsh is particular addresses economic themes and economic ideologies (read in more biblical language “powers and principalities” – for me, in my reading, there were echoes of William Stringfellow (good introductory book here), Walter Wink (his key books can be found here, here, and here) and others who have seriously grappled with a theology of “principalities and powers”). Walsh’s is an enlightening reflection and well worth a read. Ericka’s paper is a provocative “shock”.
Brian’s paper is titled From Shock and Awe to Shock and Grace: a Response to Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. Here’s an excerpt. Walsh writes:
“…Naomi Klein’s book is deeply disturbing. Her thesis is as simple as it is devastating. Shock takes three stages: first put the entire population in a state of collective shock through some kind of crisis (whether it be a coup, a terrorist attack, market meltdown, war or a natural disaster, doesn’t really matter); then, in that brief moment of societal confusion and disorientation move quickly to radically reform the economy and other social and political structures in a way that will institute Chicago school economic policies; and then, if there is opposition, if people arise out of their confused state and begin to protest what has gone on, begin to militate against the new regime … well then the third level of shock is necessary and out come the electric shock cables, out come the implements of torture, people start getting ‘disappeared’, mass graves need to be dug, the society must be cleansed of the filth, the garbage, the pollutants that will stand in the way of what is politically and economically inevitable. What once was thought of as democratically impossible must now engage in such repression that there will be no imagination left, no perception left, no reorientation possible that would allow for dreaming of new possibilities beyond the repression…
…Klein insists that “certain ideologies are a danger to the public and need to be identified as such.” Specifically, “these are the closed, fundamentalist doctrines that cannot co-exist with other belief systems; their followers deplore diversity and demand an absolute free hand to implement their perfect system.” In such ideologies, “The world as it is must be erased to make way for their purist invention…”
…Klein is clear, however, that anything like a biblical faith, rooted in Hebrew and Christian scripture, is definitely not the answer, but part of the problem.
Remember that quote about biblical fantasies of great floods? Well, the very first words that we meet in this book – before Klein has told us any part of her story – is the epigraph that opens the first chapter:
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth.
Klein doesn’t begin her book with Genesis 6.11-13 for a little religious inspiration. No, this text, and texts like it, she is arguing, provide mythic/symbolic legitimacy for the purist and fundamentalist ideology that she is exposing. Indeed the only other biblical text she quotes comes later in the book and it is from Revelation 21.5, “See, I am making all things new.”
The suggestion is clear. From Genesis to Revelation, we meet a faith of destruction, or wiping slates clean in order to make all things new – a mythic worldview tailored for an ideology of radical economic purification!…”
Ericka Steptens-Rennie’s presentation is entitled “Plots, Pressures and Penetration: Neo-Conservative Economics and the Injustice of Rape.” In it, she draws disturbing parallels between the biblical rape of Tamar, and the Chicago School of Economics’ treatment of Less Developed Countries.