There was a packed house at the historic Riverside Church last night where Michelle Alexander and Naomi Klein participated in a conversation about the incompatibility between Capitalism, the Climate and Justice. I attended this event, hosted by Union Theological Seminary at the historic Riverside Church in downtown Manhattan. From the event description:
The Spirit of Justice is a conversation about what it will take to birth a new America, a nation in which every life and every voice truly matters. The last presidential election was a painful reminder that it is dangerous to view American history as a slow but steady march towards greater freedom, justice, and equality for all. The truth is far more complicated. But one thing is clear: Since the days of our nation’s founding, there have always been people who have courageously embraced and embodied a spirit of justice.
People of all colors, backgrounds, and walks of life have, in various ways, shown up in American history as revolutionaries, challenging us to reimagine what dignity, justice, and equality ought to mean and forcing us to reconsider who should be considered worthy of our collective care, compassion, and concern. While some may wish to return to a time when most Americans had few rights and little hope for justice, The Spirit of Justice aims to amplify the voices of modern-day revolutionaries — artists, activists, scholars, healers, teachers and more — who are committed to moving forward in new ways with a keen understanding of the political history and moral dilemmas which brought us to this moment in time.
Alexander talked about needing to define what we are for rather than what we are against. “It became very clear that is was easy to unite about what we were against but, we had a lot more difficulty defining with clarity what we were for”. She is a visiting professor of social justice at Union Theological Seminary, as well as the author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness“.
For her part, Naomi Klein spoke about growing up to not be a part of the war machine. She described her father being a war defector and moving the family to Canada to escape the draft. Klein also spoke of her father being raised in a very leftist/socialist family of and how her grandfather was a key union organizer in the famous Disney animators’ strike of 1941. For his efforts, he became blacklisted and never able to work again as an artist after that.
Klein said, “The utopian muscle is a muscle and we need to exercise it like any other muscle and get together in groups of people and look each other in the eye and dare to dream about what we want instead”. This is something I’ve personally been saying for decades and trying to get people engaged in.
Klein has authored many best-selling books, including “No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need“, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate“, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism ” and “No Logo“.
Overall, I was hoping for a conversation that was more hard hitting and that would relay a wake up call to the audience reflecting the true state of emergency we really are in. I felt it was a bit too relaxed and casual for what we are facing in this country and the world. You can watch the full video of the event right here and make your own decision: