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Naomi Klein's Sydney lecture

Deirdre Fulton

Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein accepted the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize in Australia on Friday, delivering a searing speech that reflected on Donald Trump's presidential victory in the United States and the factors that allowed it to happen.

'If there is a single overarching lesson in the Trump victory, perhaps it is this: never, ever underestimate the power of hate, of direct appeals to power over the 'other'... especially during times of economic hardship', said Klein, whose books include The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate.

Calling Trump the 'demagogue of the moment', Klein went on to identify other lessons to 'take from our barely three-day-old reality'.

One, she said, is that 'economic pain is real and not going anywhere—four decades of corporate, neoliberal policies and privatization, deregulation, free trade, and austerity have made sure of that'.

Another, she continued, is that 'only a bold and genuinely re-distributive agenda has a hope of speaking to that pain and directing it where it belongs—the politician-purchasing elites who benefited so extravagantly from the auctioning off of public wealth, the looting of our land, water, and air, and the deregulation of our financial system'.

But to create such an agenda requires the learning of an even 'deeper lesson', Klein said. 'If we want to defend against the likes of Donald Trump—and every country has their own Trump—we must urgently confront and battle racism and misogyny in our culture, in our movements, and in ourselves. This cannot be an afterthought, it cannot be an add-on. It is central to how someone like Trump can rise to power.'

'Neither can we tell ourselves that when we fight for peace and economic justice, it will benefit black people and Indigenous people the most because they are the most victimized in our current system of economic inequality, state repression, and climate change', she said. 'There is too long and too painful a track record of left and liberal movements leaving workers of color and Indigenous people and women and their labor out in the cold. To build a truly inclusive movement, there needs to be a truly inclusive vision that starts with, and is led by, the most brutalized and excluded.'

Watch the rest of Klein's lecture, which received a standing ovation, below (starts around 25 minutes):

In separate interviews given while she was in Australia to accept the prize, and in an op-ed published Thursday, Klein specifically lambasted Trump's dangerous climate policies—including his vow to withdraw the U.S. from the landmark Paris Agreement aimed at limiting global warming. 

'Outside the U.S., we need to start demanding economic sanctions in the face of this treaty-shredding lawlessness', Klein wrote.

Indeed, she described Trump's plans to double-down on domestic fossil fuel production while cutting aid to poor nations impacted by rising sea levels as 'immoral and atrocious'. 'And I believe there has to be an international response that's very, very swift', she said. 'You have to send a signal that you cannot trash these hard won, hard negotiated international treaties and face no consequences'.


Deirdre Fulton is a staff writer for Common Dreams. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. For more information, visit the Sydney Peace Foundation


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