September 5th, 2013

Naomi Klein: Working stiffs as corporate “overburden”

At the launching convention this past Labour Day weekend of a new Canadian union — Unifor — Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, spoke.

Her book describes the international conservative movement to privatize governments, to bust unions and to commodify natural resources for corporate profits. The Shock Doctrine is the impetus for removing public control of the city of Detroit and putting it in the hands of a financial manager prepared to sell off nearly all public assets and privatize all services. The Shock in her doctrine is the false claim that we are broke and cannot afford to help citizens anymore. [If only we weren’t so busy making expensive wars that sap taxpayer funds.] Governments then impose austerity on the public and worsen their situations. Then, they make the argument that corporations know better how to run businesses so they should take over where government “failed.”

Whether or not the original financial crises (the excuses for change) were manufactured by corporations, those same corporations are portrayed as the only solutions for the crises. It is illogical. Real people lose their livelihoods and homes when this grand experiment is undertaken. There are objective economic data that austerity is a failed strategy, but political leaders, owing allegiance to the corporations that fund their election and re-election campaigns do the corporations’ bidding.

When austerity inevitably fails, people are made to suffer more with higher unemployment, family stress, and an inability to live as they once did. Corporations, especially financial ones, are supported by the governments they have stripped bare. Banks are not allowed to fail. Their losses are covered by the screwed taxpayers.

Klein told the Unifor audience to also focus on climate change. In her address, she recharacterized the mining and “energy” industries as extractivism. P.M. Harper’s one big idea, according to Klein, is: “Dig lots of holes, lay lots of pipe. Stick the stuff from the pipes onto ships – or trucks, or railway cars – and take it to places where it will be refined and burned. Repeat, but more and faster.”

Klein’s other major point was to acquaint us with the term used by the mining industry — “overburden” — that describes the “waste earth covering a mineral deposit.” Overburden includes

forests, fertile soil, rocks, clay – basically anything that stands between them and the gold, copper, or bitumen they are after. Overburden is the life that gets in the way of money. Life treated as garbage.

To Klein, the corporatized government view of citizens is that

We are all overburden. That’s certainly the way the Harper government sees us.
-Unions are overburden since the rights you have won are a barrier to unfettered greed.
– Environmentalists are overburden, because they are always going on about climate change and oil spills.
– Indigenous people are overburden, since their rights and court challenges get in the way.
– Scientists are overburden, since their research proves what I’ve been telling you (about climate change)
– Democracy itself is overburden to our government – whether it’s the right of citizens to participate in an environmental assessment hearing, or the right of Parliament to meet and debate the future of the country.

Read Klein’s full speech at the Unifor launch.


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This entry was posted on Thursday, September 5th, 2013 at 10:02 am and is filed under Employers Gone Wild: Doing Bad Things, Fairness & Social Justice Denied, Unions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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