By Sharon Carr
“NO is Not Enough,” subtitled “Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need,” describes our current political dilemma (precarious) but also inspires us with concrete suggestions on how to step up and take our country back.
Klein is well-suited for this task as she has written three international bestsellers: “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies,” “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism” and “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.”
Donald Trump, a billionaire (or so he would have us believe), is the son of Fred Trump, a real estate developer, and Mary Anne MacLeod, a Scottish immigrant. At age 13 his parents enrolled him in military school; he was known for his mischievous behavior and thirst for attention which often lead him into trouble. As an adult, Trump never tires of the spotlight and his favorite subject: Donald.
The book describes how Donald Trump ascended to the presidency. It’s divided into four main sections:
Section 1: How We Got Here:The Rise of the Superbrands
For decades, little by little the public sphere has been privatized. Trump and his appointees have grabbed an inordinate share of the planet’s wealth; now they are in a place where they want more.
The author names the current cabinet members and describes their dubious business “success” that includes kicking thousands of people out of their homes after the 2008 financial collapse and bankrolling junk science while lobbying against meaningful international climate action. She quotes Martin Luther King Jr from his seminal 1967 “Beyond Vietnam” speech.:
“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
Large companies stopped thinking of themselves as companies that make physical products, but instead think of themselves as manufacturers of brands which, in turn, gives them a sense of tribal identity. In the 1980’s the idea of having a desirable, valuable product was replaced by a belief that to be successful you must produce a successful brand as opposed to a successful product.
Trump reflects all the worst trends of branding such as having no responsibility to the workers that make his product (he and his family outsource their brand) and the need to mark every available space with the Trump name.
Trump realized that instead of investing in real estate and selling buildings, he could sell his name to developers around the world. He charges a steep premium for his brand as he is a winner and identifying with the Trump brand will make you a winner and reinforce your membership in the “winner” tribe.
Michael Jordan is a one-man superbrand. Since the product is the brand, it could be projected onto many commodities, i.e., Ralph Lauren launched a line of paints, Starbucks sold a line of jazz CDs. It doesn’t matter who does the work because the real value is not in the manufacturing but in the design, innovation and marketing.
Trump understood something essential about branding. He told Playboy: “The Show is Trump and it is sold-out performances everywhere”. Trump was paid a fortune for priceless free advertising on The Apprentice. Every week, The Apprentice delivered the central sales pitch that ..”unleashing your most selfish and ruthless side you can become a hero…creating jobs and fueling growth”. Trumps message is “I will turn you into a winner and together we will crush the losers” (Trump University).
As in his TV show, The Apprentice, there was a great deal of drama during the presidential campaign which appealed to his followers and was entertaining for television viewers. Trump understood and exploited the fake reality better than anyone and took it to a whole new level. “The Trump show now comes to us live from the Oval Office.”
Section 2: Where We Are Now: Climate of Inequality
Klein describes her visit to the Great Barrier Reef; she discovered that one fourth of the reef had died. She recorded her findings on a video clip and rushed it to the US for broadcast on the eve of the US elections thinking it might play a part in motivating people to vote and then pressure Hillary Clinton to do more on climate.
Trump won the next day and Exxon Mobil’s CEO was named secretary of state. Exxon Mobil had known about climate change in the ’70s. It had received warnings from its own senior scientists that “…the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels. Man has a time window of five to 10 years before the need for hard decisions regarding changes in energy strategies might become critical.”
That was in 1978.
Klein gives an account of why she endorsed Bernie Sanders …”as he speaks directly of neoliberalism, economic inequality and climate change.” He carried more than 20 states with 13 million votes.
Klein promotes a progressive agenda that offers answers to the inequality and democracy crisis that divides our country by giving an account of the lessons learned from Brexit and Trump’s victory.
Section 3: How It Could Get Worse: The Shocks to Come
Klein describes how some of the current players in Trump’s administration wiped out the public sphere in order to advance the interests of real estate developers, private contractors, and oil companies in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Since being elected, Trump has not allowed the atmosphere of chaos and crisis to let up. This shock-doctrine strategy is used by governments to overcome democratic resistance to extremely damaging policies.
Neoliberal politicians campaign on promises of cutting taxes and government waste while protecting essential services. Then, under the cover of some sort of crisis (real or not), claim while wringing their hands, that, sorry, we have no choice but to go after your health care. Happening to millions including the writer of this book summary!
Section 4: How Things Could Get Better
Saying NO, as we have discovered (Klein cites examples in the book), will not be enough to make the changes we need from our government. Obama and the Democrats missed the opportunity when restructuring and bailing out the banks and auto industry in 2009.
The author quotes historian Howard Zinn, “The really critical thing isn’t who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in – in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating. Those are the things that determine what happens”.
Klein cites examples of how shocking situations used to bring about momentous progressive victories (civil war and the abolition of slavery, horrific fire in 1911 at Triangle Shirtwaist Co, New York lead to overhaul of the state labor code and new rules for child labor, New Deal after the Great Crash of 1929).
“Why did these events trigger visionary change while Katrina, the subprime mortgage debacle, and BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster leave so little progressive public policy behind?”
The Author suggests that citizens must be involved in helping our country get on track by taking a tremendous “leap.” Of course, “How we respond to this crisis is up to us.”
Postscript: The “Leap Manifesto” — a “call for a Canada Based on Caring for the Earth and One Another” is at the book’s end.
Introspection: A memorable phrase comes to mind: Change Is Inevitable, Growth is Optional. Somehow this very self-absorbed man became the leader of our country and makes decisions that encourage violence, ignores reality and environmental justice. He remains a self-absorbed child who wants his way and has no problem lying to attain it. This book provides the incentive for me to take action to help myself grow and perhaps influence others as well.
Sharon has her masters in social work and is a retired Mental Health Consultant for the federally-funded Head Start program. As Mental Health Consultant she observed preschool children during their day, and for 10 years consulted with preschool teachers regarding instances of inappropriate behavior of children and teachers. Armed with knowledge about the children’s and teachers’ temperaments and techniques to diffuse volatile situations, she educated teachers on ways to establish successful outcomes for children. She is a mother of three and grandmother of 10. She is a fervent follower of climate change and advocates for climate justice in her local area.