On Saturday 12 November, Naomi Klein joined Aamer Rahman in conversation at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne CBD. She is in Australia to receive the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize. Her talk was hosted by Melbourne’s The Wheeler Centre as part of their season five offering.
Reeling from the shock of the Trump win, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the Wheeler Centre’s event ‘In Conversation with Naomi Klein’. I hadn’t been prepared for this eventuality; was Klein?
In conversation with comedian Aamer Rahman, Klein expressed her regret at not having backed Clinton, but beyond a few attempts at understanding the why and how of the election result, didn’t offer much in the way of commentary on what must have been, for her in particular, an absolute disaster. Like her audience, Klein was still in shock from the news. She wasn’t prepared either, it seems.
Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and author with a literary repertoire that spans almost two decades and includes some of the most hard-hitting journalism on issues surrounding the garment trade (No Logo, 1999), disaster capitalism (The Shock Doctrine, 2007) and climate change (This Changes Everything, 2014). She’s a Bernie Sanders devotee and notably, did not lend Clinton her support in this campaign. On Saturday, she expressed regret over this failure and joked about renouncing her US citizenship (she’s a Canadian/American dual citizen). But despite her jokes, the audience was left with a distinct impression of weary resignation in her voice, and perhaps even, a sense of responsibility for the result. Given the opinions voiced in her most recent book, this isn’t surprising.
This Changes Everything; Capitalism vs the Climate, is a wake up call and a call to arms; Klein’s desperate effort to revitalize a movement for positive environmental change and restoration. In it, she argues that we’re almost out of time, that we must act RIGHT NOW to have any hope of securing the Earth for the next generation. She details grassroots and communal strategies from around the world and pleads with readers to work together; only that way can we stop the effects of climate change. Despite the terrifying figures and predictions, Klein is hopeful in her writing, adamant that there is still hope. On Saturday, this hope seemed to have escaped her. While she spoke bravely about the future and encouraged the audience to not give up, there was something deflated about her tone.
Despite her disappointment, Klein provided a polemical and insightful conversation and Aamer Rahman proved to be not only excellent (and much needed) comic relief but also a provocative and discerning commentator. They were an entertaining duo and the conversation flowed easily. But much as they tried, they couldn’t shake the spectre of Trump and the conversation always, inevitably, circled back to US politics. And there, in a pool of communal disbelief and horror, it floundered.