The Shock Doctrine Comes Home
THE STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM IS ALWAYS A VIOLENT PHENOMENON, A PROGRAMME OF COMPLETE DISORDER - FOR IT ASPIRES TO CHANGE THE WHOLE SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL STRUCTURE FROM THE BOTTOM UP, WRITES AARZOO KHAN
Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
- Bertolt Brecht, ‘The Solution’ 1953.
The term ‘shock therapy’ was coined by Milton Friedman in his book Capitalism and Freedom. In fact, Friedman’s most lasting strategic legacy is his variation on Machiavelli’s advice to the Prince: “For injuries ought to be done all at once, so that, being tasted less, they offend less”. In simplest words, he advocated that the speed, abruptness and scope of the ‘shock’ create psychological reactions in the people that ‘facilitate the adjustment’. Since then, whenever a crisis has struck, governments have been convinced that it is mandatory to act swiftly, to impose their programs and policies upon the ‘rebellious rapidly and irrevocably, before the crisis-laden society slips back into the ‘tyranny of the status quo’. The all-at-once shock therapy has been their most preferred technique of choice. And, why not? After all, how can injustice be sustained without jolts of shock!
Broadly speaking, there are three distinct types of shock. First is war – designed by the adherents of the Shock and Awe military doctrine, to ‘control the adversary’s will, perceptions, and understanding and literally make an adversary impotent to act or react’. Second is the radical economic shock therapy. This involves blockades, inaccessibility to both consumable and non-consumable commodities, low purchasing power due to declining wages, high prices, plus the faulty policies - until the people become so sick and tired that they can no longer think judiciously or protect their interests and they just succumb to whatever the authorities want. In his book Political Economy of Hunger, Prof. Amartya Sen too says: “Scarcity and starvation is a characteristic of the people not having enough to eat. It is not a characteristic of there not being enough to eat”. Third is putting the resisting people in prisons where they are given more shocks – both physical as well as mental.
Let us examine a few such maneuvers. After the infamous war in Iraq, while the country was still facing the aftermath, the U.S. Chief Envoy - L. Paul Bremer, imposed complete free trade, mass privatization, 15% flat tax, a spectacularly downsized government. Ali Abdul-Amir Allawi, the then Iraq’s interim trade minister said that he and his people were already “tired of being the subjects of experiments. There have been enough shocks to the system, so we don’t need this shock therapy in the economy”. Mike Battles, an ex-CIA operative, hinted how the panic in post-invasion Iraq had been capitalized by his unproven and inexpert private security firm, Custer Battles, to squeeze about 100 million dollars in contracts out of the federal government – when he said: “For us, the fear and the disorder offered real promise”. Similarly, when New Orleans was hit by Hurricane Katrina, the group of Republican politicians, think tanks and the so-called ‘land developers’ started talking about new opportunities and ‘clean slates’ – the latter being rightly described by George Orwell as - “We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves”. This makes it clear that their preferred technique to engage in their goal of radical social and economic engineering was to use the moments of collective trauma. After the devastating tsunami in 2004, Sri Lanka too witnessed the same trick, though having a little different version. Here the international lenders and investors decided to use the environment of chaos to hand-over the entire coastline to entrepreneurs who built huge resorts hurriedly, thereby obstructing thousands of fishermen from rebuilding their villages near the sea. It is noteworthy that people who survive the disasters don’t want the clean slate thing – they want to repair everything they can and save whatever they can. In fact, in rebuilding their respective cities they feel that they are rebuilding themselves.
Going by this line of argument, some of the most brutal human rights violations across the globe which are usually regarded as sadistic acts carried by anti or pseudo democratic regimes, were actually committed either to terrorize the people and asphyxiate their spirit to stand up against the unjust governments, or to keep them dependent by not letting them learn enough so that they could to do without the regime. A latter notion is backed by the orthodox Marxists - who say that colonialism creates underdevelopment not because it exploits the colony but because it does not exploit it enough. “The violation of human rights, the system of institutionalized brutality, the drastic control and suppression of every form of meaningful dissent is discussed (and often condemned) as a phenomenon only indirectly linked, or indeed entirely unrelated, to the classical unrestrained economic policies…..”, wrote Orlando Letelier, an ex-ambassador who become an activist, in a burning essay in The Nation. He pointed out that “this particularly convenient concept of a social system, in which ‘economic freedom’ and political terror coexist without touching each other, allows these financial spokesmen to support their concept of ‘freedom’ while exercising their verbal muscles in defense of human rights”.
From China to Chile, Iraq, Palestine, New Orleans, Gujarat and ‘many places around us’ - torture has been a veiled ally of the system of economic exploitation and political subjugation. Moreover, torture is not merely a device used to impose policies on ‘rebellious’ people – but, it also is a metaphor of the shock therapy’s underlying logic.Torture, or in CIA’s terminology, ‘coercive interrogation’, is a set of techniques designed to put ‘rebellious people’ into a state of deep disorientation and shock in order to force them to make concessions against their will. In the first stage, the senses are famished of any input (total isolation); and in the next, the body is attacked with crushing stimulation; and ultimately men just give up. The shock doctrine imitates this very process to achieve on a mass scale what torture does one on one in the prison!
The best example is the shock of 9/11 which exploded for millions of people ‘the world that is familiar’ and paved way for an epoch of intense incomprehension and disorientation that the Bush regime made the most of. Never before had the North Americans become what Mao said of his people – ‘a blank sheet of paper’ - on which ‘the newest and the most beautiful words can be written’. While everybody was lost in the thoughts of the new lethal culture symbolized by terms like ‘clash of civilizations’, ‘homeland security’, ‘Islamo-fascism’ etc – the Bush administration waged privatized wars abroad and built a corporate security complex at home.
The shock doctrine follows the same basic mechanism everywhere and everytime – the original or ‘invented’ calamity - the coup, the terrorist attack, the market meltdown, the war, the tsumani, …… - thereby putting the entire populace into a state of collective trauma. Firing bullets, exploding bombs, letting loose a reign of terror softens up the masses just as the blows in the interrogation cells soften up the prisoners. Just as in a state of desperation and fright, the prisoner relinquishes his courage and reveals the names of his companions, in the similar way shocked societies give up things they would otherwise guard with their life.
Moreover the men in power who (ab)-use the shock therapy have either forgotten or haven’t realized that besides the immediate consequences the shocks have stark long-term consequences as well. A shock is not merely an episode or an event – but a trigger for a series of reverberations the quivers of which can be felt later on. The target peoples’ renovation efforts represent the anti-thesis of the shock doctrine. Freedom is the most inalienable need of all living creatures. No man is born with the desire to be free. We are born free. It is only when we realize that our freedom is a delusion and that it has already been taken away from us - we begin to crave for it. The struggle for freedom is always a violent phenomenon, a programme of complete disorder - for it aspires to change the whole socio-economic and political structure from the bottom up. It involves the encounter of two forces opposed to each other by their very innate nature; but, sooner or later, a day comes when ‘the last becomes the first and the first last’. The people know every corner of their city, every aspect of their community and every facet of the circumstances that they experience. They know one another’s problems and grievances. They know their capabilities as well as their weaknesses. So, let us conclude with this optimism that the people know best!!
[Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org]
Lastupdate on : Thu, 12 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 12 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 13 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
- MORE FROM OP-ED
HE WAS BUNDLED IN RAKSHAK VEHICLE: EYEWITNESS
UMER MAQBOOL DAR
Kreeri, (Varmul) Aug 12: Family members of 19-year old Farukh Bukhari, whose body was recovered from Choora village in north Kashmir’s Varmul district on Tuesday, are inconsolable. Farukh, More
Jammu, Aug 12: After more than 20 years, Bharatiya Janata Party has again given a call for Lal Chowk Chalo on August 15 to hoist the tricolor at the historic Chowk. The party has claimed that about More
- South Asia
URGES UN TO CALL EMERGENCY SESSION
NISAR AHMED THOKAR
Islamabad, Aug 12: Voicing its full support to the ongoing peaceful struggle in Kashmir, the AJK cabinet met on Thursday and passed a unanimous resolution denouncing what it termed as the gross human rights More