Naomi Klein Q&A: “We’re nearing a revolution in understanding our brains”

The Canadian author and activist on Anne Frank, the “neurodiversity” revolution and being bugged by Twitter

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Born to “hippie” parents in Montreal in 1970, Naomi Klein dropped out of the University of Toronto to pursue a career in journalism. She is best known for her anti-capitalist books including “No Logo”, “The Shock Doctrine” and “This Changes Everything”.

What’s your earliest memory?
Age three, going with my mother and older brother to choose a dog from a kennel. I saw the runt of the litter fall into the water bowl and thought: “That’s my baby.” 

Who are your heroes?
Like many Jewish girls, my childhood hero was Anne Frank. She was the reason I started a journal at age nine, and I’ve been writing ever since. Sticking to writers, a few of my adult heroes are Rachel Carson, Rodolfo Walsh and Anthony Shadid.

What was the last book that changed your thinking?
Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes. His deep dive into the world of autism made me realise that we are on the cusp of a revolution in our understanding of how brains function. There are many different ways of processing information, and that’s a source of enormous richness, not pathology. What’s happening with “neurodiversity” is a bit like what’s happening with gender nonconformity. The binary approach is exploding all over the place and it’s brilliant.

What political figure, past or present, do you look up to?
Ada Colau, the amazing mayor of Barcelona, who used to be a housing rights activist. She’s a true feminist politician and she’s reinventing electoral politics.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?
Terry Pratchett Discworld trivia.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?
Chile in 1970-1972. I could have been part of the campaign that got Salvador Allende elected and witnessed his first wave of socialist reforms. I could have seen Víctor Jara perform and gone to a Neruda reading.

What TV show could you not live without?
I would happily binge-watch Orphan Black six more times.

Who would paint your portrait?
Doesn’t bear contemplating.

What’s your theme tune?
Janelle Monáe’s “Make Me Feel”.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My father told me: “It’s OK to go out on a limb, but don’t saw it off.” He was talking about doing your research before taking a controversial position. The trees that have died for my endnotes are my humble attempt to follow that advice.

What’s currently bugging you?
Twitter. It’s always Twitter.

What single thing would make your life better?
Living next to our closest friends, or in one big commune. Nuclear family dwelling is a bad technology, especially with little kids.

When were you happiest?
When breastfeeding. It’s a natural high.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?
Midwife. Births are a portal: it would be amazing to dwell in that space day after day.

Are we all doomed?
It all depends on whether or not when people say “late capitalism” they really mean it.
Naomi Klein’s latest book “No is Not Enough” is out in paperback now

This article appears in the 18 May 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Israel and the impossible war