Klein-Disaster Capitalism-Harpers 2007

The enclave has its own electrical grid its own phone

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Unformatted text preview: ons actually work. The enclave has its own electrical grid, its own phone and sanitation systems, its own oil supply, and its own state-of-the-art hospital with pristine operating theaters-all protected by walls five meters thick. It felt, oddly, like a giant fortified Carnival Cruise ship parked in the middle of a sea of violence and despair, the boiling Red Zone that is Iraq. If you could get on board, there were pools ide drinks, bad Hollywood movies, and Nautilus machines. If you were not among the chosen, you could get shot just for standing too close to the wall. verywhere in Iraq, the wildly divergent values assigned to different categories of people are on crude display. Westerners and their Iraqi colleagues have checkpoints at the entrances to their streets, blast walls in front of their houses, body armor, and private security guards on call at all hours. They travel the country in menacing armored convoys, with mercenaries pointing guns out the windows as they follow their prime directive to "protect the principal." With every move they broadcast the same unapologetic message: We are the chosen, our lives are infinitely more precious than yours. Middle-class Iraqis, meanwhile, cling to the next rung down the ladder: they can afford to buy protection from local militias, they are able to ransom a family member held by kidnappers, they may ultimately escape to a life of poverty in Jordan. But the vast majority of Iraqis have no protection at all. They walk the streets exposed to any possible ravaging, with nothing between them and the next car bomb but a thin layer of fabric. In Iraq, the lucky get Kevlar; the rest get prayer beads. Like most people, I saw the divide between Baghdad's Green and Red zones as a simple by-product of the war: This is what happens when the richest country in the world sets up camp in one of the poorest. But now, after years spent visiting other disaster zones, from post-tsunami Sri Lanka to post-Katrina New Orleans, I've come to think of these Green Zone/Red Zone worlds as something else: fast-forward versions of what "free market" forces are doing to our societies even in the absence of war. In Iraq the phones, pipes, and roads had been destroyed by weapons and trade embargoes. In many other parts of the world, including the United States, they have been demolished by ideology, the war on "big government," the religion of tax cuts, the fetish for privatization. When that crumbling infrastructure is blasted with increasingly intense weather, the effects can be as devastating as war. Last February, for instance, Jakarta suffered one of these predictable disasters. The rains had come, as they always do, but this time the water didn't drain out of Jakarta's famously putrid sewers, and half the city filled up like a swimming pool. There were mass evacuations, and at least fifty-seven people were killed. No bombs or trade sanctions were needed for Jakarta's infrastructure to fail-in fact, the steady erosion of the country's public sphere...
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This note was uploaded on 04/19/2011 for the course AMST 150 taught by Professor Perkinson during the Fall '10 term at University of Hawaii, Manoa.

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