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To take one example, the Caribbean and southern United States are in the midst of an unprecedented hurricane season, pounded by storm after storm. Puerto Rico -- hit by Irma, then Maria -- is entirely without power and could be for months, its water and communication systems severely compromised. But just as during Hurricane Katrina, the cavalry is missing in action. Donald Trump is too busy trying to get black athletes fired for daring to shine a spotlight on racist violence. A real federal aid package for Puerto Rico has not yet been announced. And the vultures are circling: the business press reports that the only way for Puerto Rico to get the lights back on is to sell off its electricity utility.
This is a phenomenon I've called the Shock Doctrine: the exploitation of wrenching crises to smuggle through policies that devour the public sphere and further enrich a small elite. We've seen this dismal cycle repeat again and again: after the 2008 financial crash, and now in the UK with the Tories planning to exploit Brexit to push through disastrous pro-corporate trade deals without debate.
Ours is an age when it is impossible to pry one crisis apart from all the others. They have all merged, reinforcing and deepening each other like one shambling, multi-headed beast. The current US president can be thought of in much the same way. It's tough to adequately sum him up. You know that horrible thing currently clogging up the London sewers, the fatberg? Trump is the political equivalent of that. A merger of all that is noxious in the culture, economy and body politic, all kind of glommed together in a self-adhesive mass. And we're finding it very hard to dislodge.