Calm is a Form of Resistance by John M Repp

Calm is a Form of Resistance

by John M Repp

One of the memorable ideas that Naomi Klein gives us in her new book Doppelganger: a Trip into the Mirror World (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2023) is: “calm is a form of resistance”. (p.226) The book examines what has happened to us during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The opposite of calm is fear, and fear is contagious. But the key point is that fear helps to create an environment where conspiracy theories spread.

Today too many of us live in a world of disconnected facts. And many of us are in a state of shock, after such events as the election of Trump in November 2016 (and the fact that Trump is running again and leading in some opinion polls), the massive spontaneous uprising after the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, the attempted coup of Jan 6, 2021, and the Covid-19 pandemic starting in late January 2020. Add the fact that much of the new national and international battleground of ideas occurs on social media and the Internet where all kinds of disinformation and misinformation are found. No wonder conspiracies fly around like moths in front of a streetlight on a hot summer night. That is why we need calm. We need to be able to think clearly in this age of multiple existential crises.

Klein is saying that as the U.S. government took actions to try to control the Covid-19 pandemic, such as asking people to wear masks, get vaccinations, and not gather together in large crowds, the government was not engaging in a conspiracy to repress us. Too many people thought pandemic control measures were politically repressive. On the contrary, Klein says wearing a mask during a pandemic and getting vaccinated are acts of solidarity.

That does not mean she thinks we live in a well-functioning democracy. She thinks that there are “events and situations – financial crises, energy shortages, wars – that are indeed ‘manipulated behind the scenes by powerful sources’”. (p.228) Klein also thinks we should stop thinking of “power as residing in individuals and groups rather than structures.” (p. 230) Power she says does not really reside in individuals like Gates or Bezos.

What does she mean by “structures”?

I will cite another writer, economist Michael Hudson. “The US is so heavily debt-laden, its housing prices are so high, and its medical care is so extremely high (18% of GDP) (that it) cannot compete in the world market. It cannot re-industrialize without taking radical steps to write down debts, to de-privatize health care and education, to break up monopolies and restore progressive taxation. The vested Financial, Insurance and Real Estate (FIRE sector) interests are too powerful to permit these reforms.”

Hudson’s point is that the reindustrialization of the United States, as a way to get back to a better functioning society, with an expanding rather than shrinking middle class, and being able to compete in the industrial world market with China will not be possible if we cannot solve the problems of our economy, he calls financial capitalism.  

We know now that the “globalization” project announced in 1999 in Seattle at the WTO meetings has been very harmful to our domestic manufacturing and to our industrial workers, and a failure for the nation as a whole. There were thousands who came to Seattle from all over to protest the implementation of WTO. They were right to do so. We disrupted the meeting but did not change American policy.

So, the FIRE sector (Financial, Insurance, and Real Estate) is the “bundle of the structures” that we need to reform to make our country successful in the contemporary world. It will not be easy. But better to do that and deal with the climate crisis than have a war with China.