More Wisdom from Naomi Klein on a Decent Economic System

Naomi Klein is speaking to the current emergency of Climate Change.  Her thinking is also inclusive, it seems to me, to the waking up happening in the streets and state houses, homes and media, as well about racism, colonialism and the end of a deeply flawed era that we call the modern era (or Korten calls the first enlightenment).

April 30th, 2020 coverage from Channel 4 News with Naomi Klein who made her name with her criticisms of globalisation and capitalism.

In her book NO Is NOT Enough, Klein reminds us that our current and post-modern politics and economics must “lead with values, not policies.”  Let the policies derive from our values—this is what Thomas Aquinas, as we saw previously, called “the common good.”  She sheds light on our current economy when she writes:

We have a system based on limitless taking and extracting, on maximum grabbing.  Our economy takes endlessly from workers, asking more and more from them in ever tighter time frames, even as employers offer less and less security and lower wages in return. 

Long precedent of unsafe working conditions: East African workers protest against Amazon, Shakopee, Minnesota, 2018. Photo by Fibonacci Blue on Flickr

How true this has manifested in the time of corona and the untold dangers and deaths that have occurred in so many meat processing plants, for example.

Our system, she points out, is “endlessly [taking] from the earth’s natural bounty.”  All this derives from a system of “short-term profits”  that

…treats people and the earth either like resources to be mined to their limits or as garbage to be disposed of far out of sight, whether deep in the ocean or deep in a prison cell.

She talks of moving from “a system of taking to a system of caretaking.”  She defines caretaking as a system in which everyone is valued, and we don’t treat people or the natural world as if they were disposable. 

I am struck by how much this teaching of caretaking is like Aquinas’s teaching that salvation means preserving things in the good!

An elder-care worker shows a grandmother videos of her grandchildren during COVID-19 lockdown. Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

This is the “shift in values, and indeed in morality,” that she is proposing.  Policy can flow from these values.  Klein points out that day care and looking after the elders, teaching too, is “low-carbon.”  Overwhelmingly women do this kind of work but are underpaid for it.  Nursing and education are “renewable energy” and they manifest how to “replace an economy built on destruction with an economy built on love.

Klein cites those who declare that a “rebirth of humanity” is at stake and that would seem to name the energy of our times triggered in large part by the cold blooded murder of a black man begging for his life on the streets of Minneapolis by a white police man.  This energy of coming to grips with the sins of our fathers and mothers, the centuries or racism and genocide and destruction of our planet that we can and must turn to a new direction, a new value system so missing in most of modern “civilization.”  A civilization based on a taking, not a caretaking, set of values that still reign in much of Wall Street and courts of our land and congress and academia.  We can do better.

See Naomi Klein, NO is NOT Enough, pp. 240-242.

See Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 397, 408f., 415-418, 481f.

See Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 45-52.

Banner Image: Volunteers unload food at a food bank. Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree that a great value debate is upon us as a species and that it is out of a shared value system that we can and must give birth to an economic system worthy of us and the planet? 

And that caretaking trumps taking as a value system?

Recommended Reading

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

Registration is open until July 15! Sign up today and view Lessons One and Two in recording. Put your faith into action, joining spiritual seekers throughout history who’ve followed Aquinas’ trailblazing wisdom — and cultivate compassion, courage, and resilience to meet life’s greatest challenges. Seven-week live video training started Thursday, July 2.
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2 thoughts on “More Wisdom from Naomi Klein on a Decent Economic System”

  1. Avatar

    I listened to the pastor of my church community this past Sunday remind us that God starts with a “G” (giving) and not a “T” (taking). I find it wonderful to hear of the value driven economic structure Naomi Klein espouses, especially after hearing about “family values” for some time from the Christian right. As a child growing up in the 1980’s and 90’s, I was just learning how to be a human myself, and the words of these “takers and hoarders” of power never rang true to me. I knew God wanted us to be givers, in my heart and soul. And I knew there was an “us”. We must lead with our hearts, not our fears.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Leslie, “Thou are not far from the kingdom” (Mark 12:34)… and thank you sooo much for your words !!!

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