Book Review: Fences and Windows by Naomi Klein (Picador, 2002)

The Author and Book
Fences and Windows is a collection of columns and speeches by Canadian Naomi Klein, author of No Logo, from the time just before, during and following the events of September 11, 2001.

In Fences and Windows, Klein follows the political movement against globalization, showing the human side of a movement that is often vilified by the media and politicians. Through the book’s stories, Klein shows the effects of separating political and economic decisions from the people most effected by the choices. By giving glimpses from behind the scenes of numerous protests and activist gatherings, she manages to provide a more structured, though at times broad, message of what these political activists desire and how politicians could work to address a problem that continues to grow.

For Klein, the problem articulated time and again is simple. Western countries like the United States and Canada approach the diplomatic process with the idea that free trade naturally ushers in democracy. Klein, however, believes that much of the work of the politicians and organizations like the World Trade Organization is simply consolidating power in the hands of the “haves,” leaving the “have nots” to continue to suffer. She shows this on a national level, where homeless are ignored by their government, and internationally, when developing nations are held to a more strict and unfair set of rules than the powerful rule-makers (like when Brazil chose to break a medicine copyright to make a free AIDS vaccine for its population and was taken to court (p. 81), while Canada is able to manufacture free Cipro without protest to protect its politicians from a potential Anthrax attack.)

The Reaction
As someone interested in leadership, Klein’s oft-repeated value of keeping the decision making close to the people is worth internalizing. Leadership can easily lean toward extremes. On one end, you find the controlling, but charismatic, leader who maps out a course and brings everyone else along. It is a technique that is touted in many leadership books. But today people expect something different, and Biblically we see a different model. A leader needs to be willing to make difficult decisions, but she must be connected to and involved with the people she is serving. Top down leadership rarely works for the benefit of the people at the bottom of the structure. A flat and connected structure where everyone has a voice is essential.

The biggest question for me from this book was simple. In light of this knowledge, how does the church respond? I believe it is important for each church to work to bless the city where they are located and find a nation in need they can consistently invest in. The church, through its people, has tremendous knowledge and wealth available. While working at the level of the infrastructures of society will be important for lasting change, consistent work serving the least, building medical clinics, training doctors and equipping school teachers can help the individuals who are suffering and draw the attention of the government at the same time. As Klein said at one point in her book, sometimes bringing change involves more than speaking against what is wrong. It means providing, and living out, a viable solution today.

One response to “Book Review: Fences and Windows by Naomi Klein (Picador, 2002)”

  1. […] The Reaction A book by a man with a passion will obviously lean at times toward extremes and hyperbole to make a point. But I found Culture Jam to have a more solid foundation than previous books we have read that primarily advocate protests to raise public awareness. While a protest can be successful, Lasn said, a group must first know what they stand for and must be able to reframe the topic (page 152). By doing this, one connects with the public and challenges their expectations. The story becomes one of individuals with a real point, not zealots searching for the next cause to embrace. […]

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