With my PhD in English Literature at Edinburgh University about to begin, I will be reading lots of stuff this year. Do not expect weekly reviews, I do not read quickly. But I will share with you anything interesting I do read, whether it’s a novel that’s in vogue, or something from my course that I think is worth knowing that broadened my horizon. I’ll be reading a lot of things about transgender discourse, but hopefully, a lot of things which aren’t, as well.
Naomi Klein: No Is Not Enough
I've been taking in books instead of movies, recently quite political ones, Christmas treats that I got for myself and am working through. Finally, I have something I want to write about.
Naomi Klein's No Is Not Enough is the one book I'd recommend to anyone. It's a brilliant deconstruction of Trump and his Presidency-As-Brand, though what caught my eye most of all was her deconstruction of Hillary Clinton. Though Klein doesn't deny that Hillary was preferable to Trump, she articulates how the Clinton campaign had a similar logic. Trump stood for trickle-down economics; Hilary championed trickle-down identity politics. Clinton's policies would have meant more of the same lukewarm neoliberalism that's created such obscene inequality, with unregulated stock markets and the accompanying culture of deserving winners and losers and an increasingly militarized police to combat the unrest. In effect, even if Hillary had got in, a Trump would have followed eventually, because the conditions for a Trump – of growing working class anger – would have remained. But even in the short term, a vote for Hillary would not have helped so many women in a material sense, not at the lower end of the economic spectrum.
Because I realize it's the same with transgender icons: yay for Caitlyn Jenner for coming out as trans, it helped put trans people on the map in a respectable, glitzy way. But Jenner's support for Trump over Hillary? Jenner's trickle-down trans celebrity won't help American trans teenagers denied entry to the public restroom of the gender they identify with. It won't help the trans military personnel who'll lose their careers because of Trump's anti-trans dismissals. And at a general level, as poverty increases under Trump, it won't help all those at the bottom end of the spectrum. Let's stick to trans people for a moment: those trans people in poverty often end up in prostitution; the murder rate against trans people at the poorer end is horrific.What I liked most about No Is Not Enough, in fact, is its emphasis on intersectionality: if you really care about what happens to trans people, then be aware that the suffering of those most vulnerable doesn't happen in a void. African-American and Latino trans people get it so much worse, in a ghettoizing system, one that makes prison a profitable enterprise, where locking someone up for 15 years for possession of marijuana gives that prison effectively an economic slave for the next 15 years. There's a general culture here of meanness, of venerating money rather than supporting people. As Klein says, those human traits we value, of generosity, kindness, empathy, and forgiveness, are rejected for a cold, suspicious, materialistic greed. Those who suffer most at the bottom end of the economy, black, Latino, trans, to name but three, their lives won't be better until we categorically address a system that values all the worst things in our nature, a rapacious kind of capitalism where Trump is just the symbol and no token white knight can change that by what they represent.