No is Not Enough (Book Review)

How do we move forward as progressives within a Trump administration? 

Naomi Klein is an award winning author known for her previous books, The Shock Doctrine, and This Changes Everything. Klein is a leading progressive voice, especially in terms of intersectional climate justice. Her most recent book, No is Not Enough, was written in the months following Trump’s inauguration, and aims to prepare Americans how to resist the Trump administration’s barrage of the shocks to the system.

“We don’t go into a state of shock when something big and bad happens; it has to be something big and bad the we do not yet understand. A state of shock is what results when a gap opens up between events and our initial ability to explain them,” Klein writes.

Klein is clear that Trump is not the first shock to America, but rather a continuation of a long line of abuses and shocks based on misplaced values in the founding of the county.

“Our modern capitalist economy was born thanks to two very large subsides: stolen Indigenous land and stolen African people. Both required the creation of intellectual theories that ranked the relative value of human lives and labor, placing white men at the top… In other words, economics was never separable from ‘identity politics,’ certainly not in colonial nations like the United States- so why would it suddenly be so today?”

Klein said it normally takes her about five years to write a book, but she wrote No is Not Enough in a few months because she wanted it to be available before any major shocks hit America.

“We have to question not only Trump but the stories that ineluctably produced him. It’s not enough to superficially challenge him as an individual, four and alarmingly ignorant though he may be. We have to confront the deep-seated trends that rewarded him and exhaulted him until he became the most powerful person in the world. The values that have been sold to us through reality TV, get-rich-quick books, billionaire saviors, philanthrocapitalists.”

Klein goes into detail about how we got here as a society, making note that the same agenda to keep people from movement building together is still in effect today:

“In truth, nothing has done more to help build our present corporate dystopia than the persistent and systematic pitting of working-class whites against Blacks, citizens against migrants, and men against women. White supremacy, misogyny, homophobia and transphobia have been the elite’s most potent defenses against genuine democracy,” Klein writes.

Instead of having a collaborative, multi-issue movement, we instead have a society where people have certain pet issues of their own, and do not combine these fights for justice.

“Anti-austerity people rarely talk about climate change. Climate change people rarely talk about war or occupation… Rarely are the dots connected between the powerful men who think they have the right to use and abuse women’s bodies and the widespread notion that humans have the right to do the same thing to the earth,” Klein writes.

Instead of making small changes, or trying to just get back to the status quo we had before Trump, first we must acknowledge America has always needed better foundation and create it. As Naomi writes in her book, we must leap, and create a foundation that works for all of our intersectional agendas.

“Our goal, and it wasn’t modest, was to try to map not just the world we don’t want but the one we want instead. The diversity in the room led to plenty of tough exchanges. But with long, painful histories of failed collaborations and too much broken trust, tough is what happens when people finally decide to make space to dream together… No is not enough- it’s time for some big, bold yeses to rally around.”

Out of the meeting mentioned above, Klein and others create the Leap Manifesto for Canada, which they describe as a change in cultural values.

“Acting with care and consent, rather than extractively and through force, became the idea binding the whole draft together, starting with respect for the knowledge and inherent rights of Indigenous peoples, the original caretakers of the land, water and air. Though many of us (including me) had originally thought we were convening to draft a list of policy goals, we realized that this shift in values, and indeed morality, was at the core of what we were trying to map.”

Klein and the founders of the Leap Manifesto expand on this new shift in values, and extend it in creative ways. For example, green jobs mean not only switching to producing renewable resources, but also beginning to place a higher value on traditionally “green jobs” such as nursing, teaching and creating art which have low carbon footprints.

“For many in the room, a bright red line was a rejection of nostalgia. The platform could not fall back on an idealized memory of a country that had always relied on land theft and the systematic economic and social exclusion of many communities of color.”

Toward the end of the book, Klein speaks not only about being creative in redefining our society together, but also rethinking ourselves. Klein writes about the need to reflect on and kill our “inner Trump”- these values that we have absorbed and taken as true by growing up in this society. Only when we address the values we hold in our hearts, can we begin to move society’s values as a whole into a new direction.

“…while Trump is the logical culmination of the current neoliberal system, the current neoliberal system is not the only logical culmination of the human story… Clearly, it is the culture itself that must be confronted now, and not policy by policy, but at the root.”

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