Making a Killing on Disaster
Naomi Klein wrote the fascinating and disturbing book Shock Doctrine. The thesis is that there is a new especially soulless breed of capitalism which looks for opportunities in crisis to displace poor people, steal their land, and in multiple senses of the words “make a killing.” Wolfe shows examples of this in Iraq after the wars, in New Orleans after Katrina, in Indonesia after the tsunami. And what you walk away with this this idea that there are deeply evil people who are looking at every disaster as their opportunity to take advantage of people who have just been traumatized and hurt them even further.
And of course there is the other side to crisis. People stepping up, people doing heroic things and selfless things and generous things. This is in fact the more common (by numbers) side of most disasters. But as is so often the case with industrial capitalism (which is an economic system designed to externalize “costs” for the benefit of entrepreneurs), lots of people doing small positive humanistic things can be overwhelmed by greedy people doing oppressive things.
So I posed this question to my planners (the communities executive decision makers) today. “Should we ask those who care about us to contribute money for our reconstruction after the earthquake?”
So there are a couple of sides to this. We are cash strapped having launched an $800K tofu upgrade project which is not finished and will take years to pay for itself (but will dramatically reduce the stress on tofu workers bodies as soon as we open it, especially ones who are doing the hydraulic pressing of tofu into trays – which is my job). If we got outside funding there are buildings which have been damaged that we would much more likely repair. If we got external funding we might well replace some of the things which were broken, including possibly (depending on how the money is given) personal things which we destroyed that cause hardship to the previous owner. If someone gave us a grant, we might replace the rickety shelves in the basement of ZK which nearly dumped literally thousands of gallons of preserved food on the floor in a pile of broken glass, lovingly processed organic fruits, vegetables and sadness.
Of course the other way of looking at it is even with this tofu expansion costs, we have a million dollars in the bank. We could pay for any or all of these repairs and replacements are selves were we not so cheap/financial conservative. Presumably donation money is finite and if people are giving money to Twin Oaks, which does not really need it, they are not giving money to the ACLU or to Greenpeace or to someone who is going to do something really useful with it. In fact, the case can be made that the whole point of what we are doing here is to not take external money of this kind, to show off that we can do it ourselves. That we can live with even more broken down buildings and an annoying collection of doors which now do not close. That we did not need most of the stuff we lost and that when a community gets to be this size and this age, resilience is deeply woven into the collective identity.
So if we are your favorite charity, please feel free to contribute, I can help you get money or stuff here (and people have already been generous) and know that while things are banged up here, we are doing basically fine and not really in need.