I’ve just finished reading a little book on the situation in Puerto Rico by Naomi Klein (No Logo, Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No is Not Enough). The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists (2018) tells the story of what has happened to Puerto Rico after the dual blows of the 2008 financial meltdown and, last year, the devastation of Hurricane Maria. The book shares stories about the amazing ways ordinary people, with little political power inside systems making decisions, are fighting for its future. Klein describes the battle in terms of two utopian stories in contention for the island’s future. “Puerto Rico finds itself locked in a battle of utopias. The Puertoutopians dream of a radical withdrawal from society into their private enclaves…The groups gathered in Mariana dream of a society with far deeper commitments and engagements – with each other, within communities…it’s a battle between sovereignty for the many versus secession for the few.”
Puerto Rico has receded from the news cycles. But it’s struggles can’t be forgotten. What’s happening there isn’t just a question of recovery but a fundamental struggle with the forces of globalization that burn over and clear cut the possibilities of local people figuring out together how to build sustainable civic economies for the common good of the people themselves. Read some of the stories Klein shares about these struggles.
Why should you read this little book? First, because we need to grasp what is happening to the people’s of this island to understand the powerful forces that are continually seeking to undo democratic life for the economic gain of the few. There are parallels to this happening all over the place. In British Columbia many First Nation’s peoples would say this very same dynamic is going on right now for them. Second, our’s is a society in the grip of such struggle but we tend not to see it. We are blinded to the sources of our own anxieties. There’s a growing literature documenting a rising tide of anxiety among people across Western societies. I’ve just re-read George Monbiot’s 2017 Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis. It parallels many other books in its analysis of the crisis besetting so many people who know that the promises of the nation states and the economic systems have failed them at some profoundly fundamental levels. Klein’s brief commentary on what is happening in Puerto Rico helps us to see what is at stake here. Third, I would say again that the Euro-tribal churches must listen to what people like Monbiot and Klein are saying if they’re to have any chance of refounding their vocational life in these spaces of crisis and anxiety.