Resistance, Activism Books, Reviews, Misc Justice

A Conspiracy Theory That’s True – Capitalism is THE GREAT Conspiracy: Lying, Stealing, Killing. (Naomi Klein)

Conspiracy theorists often get the feelings right,
e.g. the feeling of being exhausted by predation and extraction.

Capitalism is the Great ConspiracyNaomi Klein says,

Conspiracy theorists get the facts wrong but often get the feelings right –
the feeling of living in a world with Shadow Lands,
the feeling that every human misery is someone else’s profit,
the feeling of being exhausted by predation and extraction,
the feeling that important truths are being hidden.” [Doppelganger, p243]

Capitalism IS The Great Conspiracy

“Calm, Conspiracy … Capitalism” – that’s the title of Chapter 11 of Naomi Klein’s recent book, “Doppelganger.”
Klein makes three major points in this valuable chapter:

  1. Many (almost all?) people in our society are suffering and confused, very much feeling exploited and lied to by “the powers that be”; and such people come up with explanations (often false conspiracy theories) to explain those real, justifiable feelings.
  2. Capitalism is one major conspiracy theory that’s very accurate, that has been proven true over and over – capitalism, the behind-the-scenes manipulations by powerful moneyed people, to increase their wealth and their power (at any cost, it turns out, to all of us).
  3. “The Shadow Lands” are crucial to maintaining capitalism as now practiced – that is, the masses of profoundly exploited, deeply suffering humans (in the West and around the world) whose lives and work enable the much more comfortable, pleasant lives of the upper layers of capitalism and its witting and unwitting beneficiaries.
If we define “conspiracy” as an agreement among members of a group to pull off a nefarious plot, representatives of capital engage in conspiracies as a matter of course.
These horrible feelings, real and destructive, represent lived experience for many people, experiences caused by deliberate behaviors of the moneyed classes. These feelings cry out for explanation. And though explanations do not make the suffering bearable, they do give a target for fear, hate, and (often mis-directed) resistance.
The explanations can be pretty bizarre, even when dreamed up by some of the best educated among us, or the most influential. Thus the phrase “conspiracy theories” has come to mean false explanations for the problems; they are seen as fantasies (which they often are), and are denigrated as such.
The main theorist she mentions, a “dreamer-up” of conspiracy-theory explanations, and Klein’s most consistent target in this book, is her own“doppelganger” (of the book’s title) Naomi Wolf. Wolf, a prominent voice on the conspiracy theory-addled Right, eagerly and repeatedly creates and spreads incredible wild ideas. That is, she practices scientific and social “investigation by hunch”, hunches that she gets quite excited about, spreads broadly, and feels no obligation to research with any rigor.
Nevertheless she and other right-wing conspiracy theorists “get the feelings right.” And that’s pretty important.

“The word for the system driving those feelings starts with c, but if no one ever taught you how capitalism works,
and instead told you it [capitalism] was all about freedom and sunshine and Big Macs and playing by the rules to get the life you deserve,
then it’s easy to see how you might confuse it [the driver of those bad feelings] with another c-word: conspiracy.” [p243]

Klein has spent her adult life studying and explaining “how capitalism works”; she is very clear as to how it is in fact the greatest true conspiracy – not just another fantastic irrational “conspiracy theory”.
Here’s a good definition of “conspiracy,” then clarification that capitalism certainly is one — or a whole series of them.
She acknowledges “… the presence of real-world, provable conspiracies.” Then:

IF we define “conspiracy” as an agreement among members of a group to pull off some kind of nefarious plot in the shadows,
THEN representatives of capital – in government and the corporate sector – engage in conspiracies as a matter of course.” [p235]

Capitalism is the great conspiracy. She gives a number of examples from recent US history, which is not hard to do. They are often well verified, public knowledge, though usually ignored by garden variety conspiracy theorists. The 1970’s in Chile; 1953 in Iran; the water supply in Flint, Michigan; the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; Volkswagen; Exxon and Shell, etc.; big tobacco; etc. etc. [p235]

She even quotes the great old Adam Smith, often seen as a heroic prophet of capitalism, from 1776 (“The Wealth of Nations”). That’s 250 years ago!

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” [p236]

Well. Imagine that!
And the consequences often are not good.

“ … a piece of fast fashion worn by a young woman in New York or London or Toronto means that other young women have to risk being incinerated in their garment factories in Dhaka, Bangladesh … suicide nets to catch desperate electronics workers are a normal part of the architecture in a factory making our cell phones in Shenzen, China … Dubai and Doha … Manila … wildfires in the swanky suburbs of Los Angeles and Sonoma that are battled by prison inmates who are paid just dollars a day for this perilous work” [p237] “… warehouse workers in New Jersey have to fight one of the three richest men on the planet to get breaks long enough to make it to the toilet.” [p237] “These are just the barest of examples.” [p235]

The prophet Micah’s thoughts on such things are very interesting — and way more than 250 years old!
Micah 2:1-3
“… because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them, and houses and take them …”
Micah 3:1-4
“… you leaders … you rulers. Should you not embrace justice, you who hate good and love evil; who tear the skin from my people …”

See More:
Was Social Justice Part of Jesus’ Message? Oh Yes. 4 Scriptures.
God Has Strong Opinions! – Economic Justice in the Bible
Are Matters of Economics Moral Issues – Spiritual Issues? Isaiah Pushes It!

Calm is Valuable for Resistors

This word “calm” is featured in this chapter not to get us to be quiet. She in fact encourages us to be angry, and intent on persisting in action. But we don’t do action well if we are frantic, or angry out of our minds.

“Calm is the precondition for focus, for the capacity to prioritize … the search for calm is why I write: to tame the chaos in my surroundings, in my own mind … the goal should never be to put readers into a state of shock. It should be to pull them out of it.” [p227]

Clearly a major goal of many “influencers” today, including Klein’s doppelganger, is to push readers toward a state of shock – and of violent, mostly thoughtless reactions. But we are called to do better than that, to BE better than that.

See Also:
My Passages for Meditation: 3 Nourishing, Life-Changing Habits of Thought
Prayer for All of Us! – 5 Helps to Realism and Comfort in Prayer

The Shock of Entanglement

This [Covid] was a crisis that could only be met if we chose to truly see one another … the illusion of our separateness fell away. We were not, and never were, self-made. We are made, and unmade, by one another.
She’s serious about the dangers of isolation and rabid individualism.

“The legacy of generations of messages that pitted members of society against one another does not disappear overnight.” [p233]

But the pandemic, the Covid crisis, pressed us to realize and practice our interconnection, our “entanglement.”

“In the neo-liberal era which began in the 1970s and has not yet ended, every hardship and every difficulty – from poverty to student debt to home eviction to drug addiction – has been pathologized as a personal failing.” [p231] “This [Covid] was a crisis that could only be met if we chose to truly see one another … the illusion of our separateness fell away. We were not, and never were, self-made. We are made, and unmade, by one another.” [p232]

Those lessons were certainly NOT accepted by everyone. But she’s right about this.

The Sections of Klein’s Chapter 11

  • Introductory (3p)
  • Calm as Shock Resistance (2p)
  • The Conspiracy Is … Capitalism (3p)
  • The Shock of Entanglement (4p)
  • Some Conspiracies Are Real (5p)
  • A Fantasy of Justice (3p)
  • Outrunning Our Shadows (3p)

See Also:
Naomi Klein: We Must Make Uncomfortable Alliances

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Brief review excerpts, etc.,

from Amazon, regarding Naomi Klein’s book, “Doppelganger”:

– A finalist for the 2023 National Book Critics Circle Award
– NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | National Indie Bestseller
– A New York Times notable book of 2023 | Vulture’s #1 book of 2023
– One of Slate’s ten best books of 2023 | A Guardian best ideas book of 2023 | One of Time’s ten best books of 2023 | Winner of the Pacific Northwest Book Award
– “I’ve been raving about Naomi Klein’s Doppelganger . . . I can’t think of another text that better captures the berserk period we’re living through.” ―Michelle Goldberg, The New York Times
– “If I had to name a single book that makes sense of these last few dark years, it would be this one.” ―Katie Roiphe, The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)

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Questions for us:

1) If the conspiratorial nature of capitalism was so plainly evident to Adam Smith 250 years ago, and to Micah over 2000 years ago, why is it hard to see it now?
2) How important as an ethical underpinning of society is the idea of, and our commitment to, honoring “entanglement?”

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