Capitalism And The Use Of Disaster To Increase Economic Power

The 2007 book, The Shock Doctrine, written by social activist Naomi Klein, boldly discusses her theory of free market policies, the rise of fundamentalism, and the role it has played in the last fifty-plus years of the economic history of the United States. Klein suggests economic strategies promoted by the economist Milton Friedman, commonly known as “shock therapy,” have been used to prey on citizens during a national crisis, whether it be war or natural disaster. Although I found it interesting that Klein suggests that there are no accidents and that every national disaster, war, and policy oversight is part of a conspiracy to push through government economic policies, making the rich richer. I also found it disturbing.

To think that our government would target people of all nationalities when they are in their most vulnerable state is disheartening. As she provides evidence of her facts, and she does state that they are facts, there are often times when her explanation of the events that occurred seems to be overkill and theatrical. For Klein, high-level manipulation goes back as far as the 1980s and the controversial U.S. involvement with South America, with the overthrow of Allende’s government in Chile. Klein compares economic “shock therapy” to the “psychiatric shock therapy” performed by Dr. Ewen Cameron in the 1950s.

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Cameron’s theory was to “wipe the slate clean,” thus, allowing for a personality to be completely rewired. Although Cameron was successful in breaking down his patients, he was never able to rebuild them. Patients became child-like again, some unable to walk, talk, or perform the simplest of tasks. Although the failure of these experiments was soon condemned as unethical, the study’s findings would later be used as CIA interrogation tactics, known as the Kubark, and Klein’s central argument that this “shock therapy” had been and is still being used for the “resetting” of societies.

The way the U.S. implemented the idea of a western-backed economy across the world. “Disaster Capitalism,” as she calls it, appears to depend on terror to complete the task at hand. For example, the 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka, Klein claims, was caused by the Sri Lankan government for the sole purpose of capital gain. By inducing man-made explosions under the sea, these explosions caused a series of events that would change the coastline of Sri Lanka forever. The devastation, loss of life, and chaos created by the tsunami sent the country into a state of shock where citizens could not resist government offerings or policies.

Forcing fishermen off of subtle beachfront property would, thus, allow foreign investors and international lenders to use the distress and pandemonium of the Sri Lankan people to cash in on a luxurious coastline, which would soon be covered with resorts instead of fishing villages. Klein sees global capitalism as the main problem of the world today. She views events such as the tsunami, the destruction of New Orleans by Katrina, the invasion of Iraq, and even the collapse of communism as an opportunity for capitalists to begin and set in motion their agenda of conquest. The details of what followed Hurricane Katrina is another example in which Klein suggests that the “shock doctrine” was in place.

As Klein describes the aftermath of Katrina, leaving thousands without homes, power, medical, food, or water, she writes of private military companies being signed off by the government to patrol the streets as if the people of New Orleans had not been victimized enough; now they were being treated like criminals. However, if you have ever been to New Orleans, it has always been a place of discontent. It appears to give you the upbeat, cultural icon that is so historically described, but if you leave the French Quarter, things could take a turn for the worse.

With this thought, which is to say that New Orleans wasn’t already trying to revamp the city’s image, and unfortunately, the disaster provided an opportunity to tear down the old housing projects and poor medical facilities. I believe Klein states the truth when she writes about the companies and the countless politicians that made millions of dollars off of this disaster, but I do not think that any government, whether local or federal is ready for the severity of these types of disasters. Giving permission to take whatever help is offered or suggested, could simply be a lack of bureaucratic incompetence instead of a full-out conspiracy.

Klein suggests that the free market economy has no social or moral values and that all avenues of disaster, regardless of man-made or natural are suitable avenues for the private sector to make a profit. An opportunity to make the rich richer and leave the poor with even less. My thoughts on Klein’s book are mixed. Do I feel that the Sri Lankan government formulated and created the tsunami to wipe out thousands of its people? No. Do I believe that an entity like the World Bank and the thought process of the “Chicago Boys” and Friedmanism seem to always have an invisible hand in the wake of war or crisis? Yes. In my opinion, Klein is often overdramatic in her attempt to convince readers that every event in history is linked to capitalism.

In her writings, she speaks of an instance where American troops were tearing apart Iraq airplanes, doing millions of dollars worth of damage. If the point of the Iraq war, as Klein claims, was to hand over Iraqi assets to American corporations, then it would make more sense that America would be protecting the planes, not destroying them. Klein’s examples of capitalism are extended into the “green zones.” She sees the “green zones” as a place where the wealthy can ride out the disaster and are better equipped to deal with economic fluctuation. Klein’s thought process follows the adage, money begets money and power begets power, so that one community prospers, and the other declines. I believe this is how it has always been. Regardless if there is a disaster or not, the rich seem to get richer, and the poor end up with less.

I do not feel it is always linked to capitalizing on disasters. As Klein writes about 9/11, she states facts about President Bush immediately outsourcing security to Halliburton and Blackwater, private security companies in politicians, such as Dick Cheney, have a financial stake. Or the discussion where the poorest of poor Katrina victims find out that their schools, medical facilities, and public housing will never again open, but the firm of CH2M was put in charge of building communities that seemed untouched by the outside disasters. All instances which Klein claims lead to the free-market ideology. An ideology that has prevailed around the world not because people have embraced the market, but because it has been imposed on them.

The Shock Doctrine offers an outline of the history and the explanation of the development of disaster capitalism as Klein sees it. Her writings portray her as more of a rant than serving a legitimate purpose. Lessons that could be learned are clouded with negativity and shadowed by fear of the capitalist movement. Knowing there are powerful players within every game and legislative actions drive specific economic ideology, the results often benefit a minority. Klein sets the tone of the entire book around Cameron’s shock treatments of the 1950s, then connects every major event to capitalism and sophisticated manipulation, much like Cameron’s handling of his own participants. I believe that society at large takes the state of affairs for granted. However, it is to our benefit to understand that fear enables an elite group to benefit from the momentum and it is within our power and our best interest to be aware.

The Concept Of Polio And The Vaccine Against It

It’s September 1951; you’re a 16-year-old high school sophomore coming home with your family from Labor Day weekend at your grandmother’s home in Sunbury, Pa. On your way home, you start to experience weird symptoms, and you can’t exactly tell what’s going on with your body. The symptoms include stiffness in your neck and your skin feeling chapped. Once you arrive at your house, you develop a fever before going to bed. The next morning your mother walks into your room to check on you, only to find you barely breathing and physically paralyzed. They rush you to the hospital, and pain starts to rush throughout your body and is prominent in your spine. A spinal tap is done on you.

Meanwhile, you have convinced yourself that you have cancer. Everyone except you knows what is going on. They move you over to the polio wards of Oakland’s Municipal Hospital; only then is when you figure it out. You’re diagnosed with Poliomyelitis. What is Polio? Poliomyelitis, or Polio, is a disabling and life-threatening disease caused by the poliovirus (CDC 2019). It’s a virus that affects nervous symptoms and can paralyze the patient. That is exactly what happened to Bill Kirkpatrick in September 1951 when he came back from his Labor Day trip with his family.

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When his mother found him unable to move in his bed, they rushed him to the hospital. Once there, doctors diagnosed him with polio and immediately did everything they could to treat him. He was absolutely terrified to find out he was paralyzed. He started treatment shortly after. He took his first step in February 1952, six months after polio had paralyzed him (Kirkpatrick 2002). The polio virus can affect everyone, but cases are more common in children under five years of age. It’s very common in countries that have lower sanitization, like Pakistan and Nigeria. The virus lives in the throat and intestines of the person infected. Paralysis, the lack of movement of the body, is just one of the many symptoms that come from the polio virus. Paralysis is by far the most dangerous symptom because it’s the leading cause of death. When paralyzed, the muscles that help you breathe are compromised and can stop working. There are other life-threatening symptoms like paresthesia, which is the feeling of pins and needles in your legs. Another indication is meningitis, which affects the spinal cord and brain; this occurs in one out of twenty-five people who get polio.

One out of four people has flu-like symptoms like sore throat, fever, nausea, and headaches. It is very common to have the virus but not have any symptoms at all. This is very dangerous because that is how it spreads quickly. The virus usually only last two to five days, but there are also many cases of people reporting symptoms after fifteen to forty years. This is called post-polio syndrome. Usually, the indications for this are new paralysis, weakness, or muscle pains after the initial contamination. The virus was first reported in 1894 in Vermont. They reported 132 cases, and the numbers only grew in the years to follow. A vaccine was found in 1952; there were two forms of the vaccine, injection and oral. In 1988, the World Health Assembly set a goal to get rid of the polio virus completely. In 2016, there were only 36 cases in the world; 20 in Pakistan, 12 in Afghanistan, 3 in Lao, and 1 in Nigeria. The cases that happened in Lao, Pakistan (only one), and Nigeria were considered vaccine-derived polio cases.

The number of cases has only gone down since 2016. Only a year later, cases were only in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. Fortunately, cases of polio are down by 99.9%. The spread of the virus can happen in various ways. The virus mainly resides in the throat and intestines of the person infected. If someone touches the feces of someone who is infected, they themselves can contract the virus; feces can hold the virus for weeks. A very common way is through sneezing and coughing particles. You may contract polio by putting your mouth on objects that are contaminated. In places that have less sanitary conditions, like Pakistan, the virus can be in the water and food. You can become infected through the vaccine as well. This happens when you get the inactive virus, and it mutates within your body.

When this transpires, it’s called circulating vaccine-derived polio, cVDP. This form of obtaining the virus is very rare but has happened. There’s no cure, but there are vaccines and treatments that you can try. The course of treatment includes physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and making sure to stay home and rest. It’s very hard to get treated because the virus affects your nervous system. The best thing to do is act before you even have to deal with the virus. Get vaccinated; 99% of children who get vaccinated are protected. In the United States, the vaccine is by injection in the arm or leg. All other countries do oral vaccines because it is cheaper for prevention.

If there is someone infected with polio, there will be a vaccine to prevent the contraction of the virus. Poliomyelitis is a paralytic disease that mainly affects kids under the age of five who live in unsanitary conditions. Although this was a global pandemic and people were in fear of getting ill, you don’t have to fear anymore. Cases are down by 99.9%, and there are vaccines that are very effective. Polio was once an illness that should have worried us, but now it seems we’ve come a long way from that.

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