Naomi Klein

NAOMI KLEIN launching Fences And Windows: Dispatches From The Front Lines Of The Globalization Debate tonight (Thursday, September 26) at Bloor Street United Church (300 Bloor West). 7:30 pm. $5, unwaged $3. 416-922-8744.

Fences And Windows: Dispatches From The Front Lines Of The Globalization Debate by Naomi Klein (Vintage), 267 pages, $22.95 cloth. Rating: NNN

Rating: NNNNN


When we last left the rock star princess of the new new left,she was jetting all over the world — Mexico City to see Subcomandante Marcos ride in, Quebec City to watch the teddy bears fly, Johannesburg, Washington, Los Angeles, Belgium, Italy, Brazil, Sweden — scribbling communiques from the front lines of the radical soap opera that has become the globalization debate. And no matter how many times Naomi Klein firmly moans that she’s no leader and talks about No Logo (her now-famous book about lifestyle branding, labour abuses and anti-corporate resistance) as simply having good timing and how anti-globalization is a movement of movements well, that’s all fine and lovely, Miz Naomi Inc. To most people, she’s still the “glam-guru of the anti-globalization movement,” the “pin-up revolutionary” and “probably the most influential person under the age of 35 in the world.” And as for No Logo, it’s “a movement bible.” So (sigh) today, this anti-leader leader/political It Girl finds herself posing for what’s probably the millionth photo shoot of her barely 32 years.

“The New Statesman (an Australian paper) said I was like bin Laden,” she offers bemusedly as she gazes into the photographer’s camera in the backyard of the small Toronto house she shares with her husband, CBC star Avi Lewis. “The headline was “When bin Laden met Naomi Klein.’ As if my phones aren’t already tapped!”

And her influence, it appears, isn’t waning. No Logo is still on bestseller lists, and this week she’s releasing a new book, Fences And Windows: Dispatches From The Front Lines Of The Globalization Debate, which she’ll be speaking on tonight (Thursday).

“It looks like No Logo had a small Maoist child,” quips Klein about the black-and-red Fences, a pocket-sized collection of her columns and essays, which have appeared in the Globe and Mail, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times and others, plus some of her unpublished speeches.

“At first I was ambivalent about releasing a collection,” she admits, “mostly out of fear that I would just get massacred. It’s like holding up a target and telling the National Post or whoever to go to town — “Oh, now she’s become a pamphleteer!’ I thought, “Why should I set myself up?’ Then I thought, “Well, I don’t really care.'”

The result is a highly readable chronicle of some very intense years in the anti-globalization struggle, more accessible than the tome that is No Logo and immensely less boring than curling up with, say, a spoiler about Third World debt. With its launch also comes the launch of the Fences And Windows Fund, through which a portion of the royalties from each book sold will go into a fund for grassroots activism (http://fencesfund.org). Klein stresses, however, that Fences is in no way a follow-up to No Logo. That, she says, will come in the shape of the film that she and Lewis are working on about the political and economic zeitgeist that is currently Argentina.

But why fences? Why windows?

“I wanted to call it Ammo,” she says (little known fact: she was originally going to call No Logo Distracted By Shiny Objects), “because that’s how activists approach books — not with reverence, not with “this is my guru,’ but as potent pieces of information.”

But instead, she decided to go with Fences And Windows. Fences, because when she was rifling through her columns to find something, she noticed that the image of a fence, both literal and otherwise, kept coming up. And windows, because, it recalls her favourite phrase from Subcomandante Marcos, “opening a crack in history.” Fences keep people out, but windows can open, even just a crack, and that image helps answer the questions she is asked most: If not this, then what? and, What next?

“In Latin America they’ve got lots of windows open. They’re opening cracks in history all over the place. I mean, it’s rubble, but there’s stuff growing up between the cracks. And if nothing matters except what happens in North America, then Seattle starts the movement and September 11 can end it.”

To break the myopic Western stare, Klein has cheerfully learned how to say “son of a whore” and “his mother’s cunt” in Argentinian Spanish. She also has a book of Spanish verb drills on her floor, but it’s the dirty chants about politicians being sons of whores who should go back to their mother’s cunts that she remembers best from a recent visit to Argentina.

“There are so many chants calling politicians sons of whores that this feminist group has started making signs that say: “Please stop calling politicians sons of whores. Prostitutes are just working women who are trying to live through an economic crisis. If you really want to insult them, you should call them sons of police,'” laughs Klein. “That’s why we like Argentina.”

She grabs my pad.

“But the most important phrase in Argentina isn’t a dirty word,” she says, and writes down: “Que se vayan todos.”

“It means they should all go,” she explains.

“Who?”

“The politicians, everybody. We’re calling our film Fire The Experts: Let Them All Go.”

“Experts like you?”

“Experts like me,” she smiles. leahr@sympatico.ca

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