Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein trav­els across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea, the United States, Britain, Greece, and Australia to witness the reality of disaster capitalism. He discovers how companies such as G4S, Serco, and Halliburton cash in on or­ganized misery in a hidden world of privatized detention centers, militarized private security, aid profiteering, and destructive mining.

Disaster has become big business. Talking to immigrants stuck in limbo in Britain or visiting immigration centers in America, Loewenstein maps the secret networks formed to help cor­porations bleed what profits they can from economic crisis. He debates with Western contractors in Afghanistan, meets the locals in post-earthquake Haiti, and in Greece finds a country at the mercy of vulture profiteers. In Papua New Guinea, he sees a local commu­nity forced to rebel against predatory resource companies and NGOs.

What emerges through Loewenstein’s re­porting is a dark history of multinational corpo­rations that, with the aid of media and political elites, have grown more powerful than national governments. In the twenty-first century, the vulnerable have become the world’s most valu­able commodity. Disaster Capitalism is published by Verso in 2015 and in paperback in January 2017.

Profits_of_doom_cover_350Vulture capitalism has seen the corporation become more powerful than the state, and yet its work is often done by stealth, supported by political and media elites. The result is privatised wars and outsourced detention centres, mining companies pillaging precious land in developing countries and struggling nations invaded by NGOs and the corporate dollar. Best-selling journalist Antony Loewenstein travels to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, Papua New Guinea and across Australia to witness the reality of this largely hidden world of privatised detention centres, outsourced aid, destructive resource wars and militarized private security. Who is involved and why? Can it be stopped? What are the alternatives in a globalised world? Profits of Doom, published in 2013 and released in an updated edition in 2014, challenges the fundamentals of our unsustainable way of life and the money-making imperatives driving it. It is released in an updated edition in 2014.
forgodssakecover Four Australian thinkers come together to ask and answer the big questions, such as: What is the nature of the universe? Doesn't religion cause most of the conflict in the world? And Where do we find hope?   We are introduced to different belief systems – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – and to the argument that atheism, like organised religion, has its own compelling logic. And we gain insight into the life events that led each author to their current position.   Jane Caro flirted briefly with spiritual belief, inspired by 19th century literary heroines such as Elizabeth Gaskell and the Bronte sisters. Antony Loewenstein is proudly culturally, yet unconventionally, Jewish. Simon Smart is firmly and resolutely a Christian, but one who has had some of his most profound spiritual moments while surfing. Rachel Woodlock grew up in the alternative embrace of Baha'i belief but became entranced by its older parent religion, Islam.   Provocative, informative and passionately argued, For God's Sakepublished in 2013, encourages us to accept religious differences, but to also challenge more vigorously the beliefs that create discord.  
After Zionism, published in 2012 and 2013 with co-editor Ahmed Moor, brings together some of the world s leading thinkers on the Middle East question to dissect the century-long conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians, and to explore possible forms of a one-state solution. Time has run out for the two-state solution because of the unending and permanent Jewish colonization of Palestinian land. Although deep mistrust exists on both sides of the conflict, growing numbers of Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and Arabs are working together to forge a different, unified future. Progressive and realist ideas are at last gaining a foothold in the discourse, while those influenced by the colonial era have been discredited or abandoned. Whatever the political solution may be, Palestinian and Israeli lives are intertwined, enmeshed, irrevocably. This daring and timely collection includes essays by Omar Barghouti, Jonathan Cook, Joseph Dana, Jeremiah Haber, Jeff Halper, Ghada Karmi, Antony Loewenstein, Saree Makdisi, John Mearsheimer, Ahmed Moor, Ilan Pappe, Sara Roy and Phil Weiss.
The 2008 financial crisis opened the door for a bold, progressive social movement. But despite widespread revulsion at economic inequity and political opportunism, after the crash very little has changed. Has the Left failed? What agenda should progressives pursue? And what alternatives do they dare to imagine? Left Turn, published by Melbourne University Press in 2012 and co-edited with Jeff Sparrow, is aimed at the many Australians disillusioned with the political process. It includes passionate and challenging contributions by a diverse range of writers, thinkers and politicians, from Larissa Berendht and Christos Tsiolkas to Guy Rundle and Lee Rhiannon. These essays offer perspectives largely excluded from the mainstream. They offer possibilities for resistance and for a renewed struggle for change.
The Blogging Revolution, released by Melbourne University Press in 2008, is a colourful and revelatory account of bloggers around the globe why live and write under repressive regimes - many of them risking their lives in doing so. Antony Loewenstein's travels take him to private parties in Iran and Egypt, internet cafes in Saudi Arabia and Damascus, to the homes of Cuban dissidents and into newspaper offices in Beijing, where he discovers the ways in which the internet is threatening the ruld of governments. Through first-hand investigations, he reveals the complicity of Western multinationals in assisting the restriction of information in these countries and how bloggers are leading the charge for change. The blogging revolution is a superb examination about the nature of repression in the twenty-first century and the power of brave individuals to overcome it. It was released in an updated edition in 2011, post the Arab revolutions, and an updated Indian print version in 2011.
The best-selling book on the Israel/Palestine conflict, My Israel Question - on Jewish identity, the Zionist lobby, reporting from Palestine and future Middle East directions - was released by Melbourne University Press in 2006. A new, updated edition was released in 2007 (and reprinted again in 2008). The book was short-listed for the 2007 NSW Premier's Literary Award. Another fully updated, third edition was published in 2009. It was released in all e-book formats in 2011. An updated and translated edition was published in Arabic in 2012.

Mental health cure isn’t available with a pill

My following book review appeared in yesterday’s Sydney Sun Herald:

Crazy Like Us
Ethan Watters
Scribe, $35

About one in five adult Australians will experience mental illness at some point.

In the US, about 27 per cent of people aged 18 and older suffer from a mental disorder each year.

These are startling figures that are constantly rising and show both a growing acceptance of mental illness in our societies and a medical profession happy to prescribe pills to lessen the load. Billions of dollars are spent globally but there is little evidence that mental illness is decreasing in frequency or intensity.

The problem is that the West has convinced itself that it has the answers to manage mental conditions and should offer these “solutions” to the globe. “We are engaged in the grand project of Americanising the world’s understanding of the human mind,” writes journalist Ethan Watters in this fascinating book on the dark side of a contemporary affliction.

His thesis is that multinational drug companies “have an incentive to promote universal disease categories because they can make fortunes selling the drugs that purport to cure those illnesses”.

But this work isn’t simply hundreds of pages bashing drug companies. The author takes the issue much further, arguing for far greater cultural sensitivity by researchers, anthropologists, psychiatrists, human-rights activists and non-governmental organisations when working in countries that don’t subscribe to Western roles and attitudes.

An easy, quick fix for mental issues is seductive and Western practitioners are busy spreading the word across the globe. Watters examines four societies – Zanzibar, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Japan – and finds a confused population often desperate for mental nirvana. But are they losing cultural diversity in the process by being given so-called solutions that may work in Los Angeles but not necessarily in Zanzibar City?

The most fascinating chapter examines Sri Lanka after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami. The east coast was devastated, families were destroyed and entire towns were washed away. Watters profiles the actions of the executive director of the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, Debra Wentz, who spent the first hours and days working tirelessly to help as many victims as possible. She soon wanted to raise money to bring American trauma experts to train local counsellors to diagnose and treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Watters painstakingly explains the well-meaning but naive effort of wanting to impose Western ways of addressing psychological trauma: “The idea that people from different cultures might have fundamentally different psychological reactions to a traumatic event is hard for Americans to grasp. The human body’s visceral reaction to trauma – adrenalin, fear and the fight-or-flight response – is so primal that we assume that the after-effects of such events would also be the same everywhere … Western traumatologists have developed a set of beliefs about how best to heal from the psychological effects of trauma … Against a growing body of evidence, traumatologists assume these ideas to be universally true.”

Both cultural ignorance and Western arrogance are detailed by Watters. When children affected by the tsunami in Sri Lanka wanted to return to school after the event, a counsellor told the BBC that they were “clearly in denial”.

The parochialism worsened. Numerous reports emerged of mental health workers who didn’t speak the local language or understand local culture simply getting in the way of effective community work.

Western drug firms such as Pfizer were fast off the mark, keen to join the PTSD parade. Disaster exploitation for financial gain, something articulated in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, was rampant. There’s nothing like chaos to generate huge income for shareholders, far removed from the scene of the crime. A director of the World Health Organisation’s mental health initiative in Sri Lanka, John Mahoney, told a journalist that his group “found one organisation just handing out antidepressants to people”.

Watters summarises the fundamental fault at the heart of Western post-imperialist do-gooding, dressed up as human-rights outreach: “It is the psychiatric equivalent of handing out blankets to sick natives without considering the pathogens that hide deep in the fabric.”

This isn’t a book that advocates isolationism or avoidance of international disaster relief. Watters questions the ever-growing industry of Western miracle cures for a brain we humans barely understand.

Humility and cross-cultural understanding won’t kill us when entering societies that have thrived long before Westerners came on the scene.

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