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January 21, 2009

Change I Need to Believe In

I'm tired of hearing people say that "nothing will change" under Obama. As if they know somebody else who would change everything.

The election of Barack Obama is a historic event in and of itself. No other western country has managed to shatter racial barriers in such a way, and no other western country could, anyway. It's something that confirms my faith in humanity as a whole and fills me with respect and gratitude for the American people.

Separate from the event of his election is Barack Obama, the person. Admittedly, expectations are extremely high. It seems inevitable that he will disappoint. Still, that doesn't change the fact that he appears not only to be a sincerely decent human being, but also an extremely charismatic leader. Someone not afraid to admit he's fallible, yet no less able to inspire admiration and hope because of it.

Over the course of my lifetime, I don't expect to witness many politicians that I feel are better people than me. Much less heads of state of the most powerful country on the planet. If he fails us, and he very well might, then too bad. For now, though, he inspires me. He compells me to become a better person. He's a leader I want to follow. And that's a feeling so rare that I want to savour and hold on to it for as long as I can.


Not_funny said...

Obama's election is indeed a historic event. I wouldn't consider it more unique or special than say, the election of a woman as head of state in Turkey some years ago. In fact, one could believe the latter to be more of a breakthrough when taking Turkey's Islamic tradition into account. Yet the fact that Turkey overcame prejudice and the traditional social hierarchy to elect a female prime minister doesn't elevate Turks above the other Muslim nations.

Likewise, electing a colored president is no result of sudden public enlightenment. Obama has been bred in the very same system that has prepared the previous presidents as well. And while he is indeed a charismatic leader, that's perhaps the least of the reasons that got him elected.

One cannot become president of the U.S. just by being a nice guy with a "cunning" plan on how to fix the errors of the world. Money, unions, lobbies and corporation support are needed. And that support never comes without a price, which is usually the pervertion of the original plan, so that those who funded and/or pioneered the newly elected president get what they want.

And, through the years, what they have wanted is more money, more power, more control over government decisions, less freedom for the public, war to " fuel" the - ever starving for new lands and natural resources - American economy etc...

Now, despite all that, we can choose to believe, as Dukeoglue does, that Obama's honest cause is in fact to create a better world for Americans, and the people on earth, though he is by default strongly attached to the system that got him elected in the first place.

Could that be his goal? Needless to say, he has a very interesting decision ahead of him.

Either follow the course of his predecessors, and support the major international companies and lobbies, while giving the dog (public, the average citizen) a somewhat larger bone, which, when presented by America's propagandistic media, might be misinterpreted as the promised " change", Or he can use his office and broad public appreciation in an attempt to weaken and eventually void the very foundations that got him ( and every other president in the 20th and 21st century ) elected. The banks, corporations, lobbies, Oil companies, the Media.

It is unlikely that he will tread the latter path, and even if he does, I m afraid most Americans are sitting too deep in their sofa to lift a finger, and are too afraid to risk their comfortable lifestyle. And the media will make it even harder, by ripping apart his oh so perfect profile, convincing the public for the need for another “change".

In all honesty, I hope both Obama and the American people will prove me wrong. But even if Obama is indeed that " pure", I can't see how the shallow average American can become able to first realize he only knows what the media want him to know, that he acts exactly the way the powerful expect him to act, and then fight through his own insecurity before committing himself to the truly noble cause of making the world a better place.

Since my views might seem extreme to some, it is needed to point out that, in my opinion, there is no middle ground. Banks and international companies that control the world are cruel and ruthless. These organizations value money and growth above all else and they will do everything in their power to get what they want.

So, much like Obama, we have to make a choice as well. Either stay under their supremacy, striving to keep what little (ok, maybe not so little) we have, which is pretty much what these organizations spare to keep us content, Or we can seek deeper knowledge on how the system works, search for real news on the internet, rise against the corporations that manipulate and control our needs to maximize their income, with the ultimate goal of making a system that works for the vast majority of the people, instead of one that abuses them in favour of an elite minority.

We can work towards a human-centric society, and while an inspired leader, like Obama can be, will certainly be of great assistance, it is up to everyone to realize that there is no one more qualified to bring the changes the people want, than the people themselves. “Yes, we can “, with or without leaders, and that‘s what we should all keep in mind.

Dimitrios Doukoglou said...

Well spoken.

Not to diminish Ciller's election, but there have been female leaders in the world for some time, now (hundreds of years if you count Queen Elizabeth, but at least a few decades if you only count elected heads of government). Obviously, that doesn't spell equality, but by electing a woman prime minister Turkey is basically catching up to the world. By being the first to elect a colored leader, the US are leading it.

Furthermore, I think it's wildly unrealistic to expect Obama (or anyone else in his position) to shatter the very foundations of the system we live in. You said it yourself: that's something we, the people, must fight for on our own - we can't expect it as a gift from somebody else.

However, I disagree: "change" isn't, by definition, radical.
Selling all my possessions and becoming a tree-hugging environmentalist might be change, but so is using public transportation more often.

Already, Obama is doing certain things quite differently to the Bush administration. Admittedly, the bar is set pretty low, but still: small, gradual steps.

If he can inspire us to stop driving gas guzzlers, to invest in healthcare, science and education. If he can cultivate a sense of worldwide collaboration, I can't dismiss him just because "it's not enough".

It's change, there's no two ways about it, and it's change towards the right direction.

Theo said...

I would like to comment on the assertion by "Not_funny":

"I am afraid most Americans are sitting too deep in their sofa to lift a finger, and are too afraid to risk their comfortable lifestyle. And the media will make it even harder, by ripping apart his oh so perfect profile, convincing the public for the need for another “change"."

Has this person ever lived in the United States? If yes, for how long and when was the last time he/she spoke to several real Americans today? I, myself, do not pretend that I understand American pshchy perfectly (in fact, who can ever understand such a complex and uniquely diverse population?), although I live continuously in the US for 15 years now. Although I live in a pretty wealthy and educated neigbourhood, I do not think that all the hybrid cars in my area (approaching 50% now) are just because all these people want to "show off".

In addition, although I know that it is easily said now that "change can happen from bottom up" it was Obama that gave momentum and power to this attitude. What could not anyone else come up with the seemingly simple slogan "yes, we can"? Also, when was the last time a President or leader of any country elected by such a margin, while explicitly planning to tax wealthy people and corporations?

As for Americans only staying deep in their sofas, they would not have come out in millions to vote through a a long winter last year under minus 20 temperatures, if this was all that they are about. Again, has "Not_funny" talked to many Americans recently or consistently read American papers and publications or blogs?

Jimmy said...

I agree with Theo and would like to add more comments.

"Not_funny" claims that Obama's election is no more a breakthrough than the election of a woman leader in an Islamic society. With all due respect, this is a totally erroneous argument.

Women in Islam did apparently have a second class status as far as political rights go, but 1) they were not frequently treated as animals or lower "species", or hanged or whipped for even speaking to their master and 2) importantly, their ancestors were not dragged to their country starving and in chains from another continent against their will.

There is absolutely no comparison, the status of women in Islam does not even come close to the status of black slaves in America or other countries. The Obama election is as radical a breakthrough as anything seen in a long time especially given the peaceful naure of this change and the huge numbers of whites that voted for such a change. The only thing that is comparable is the rise of Nelson Mandela in South Africa of course, although even there black Africans have always been a majority (thus making their eventual political affirmation in some ways easier once elections became free) not a minority like in America.

Of course these argument only address the racial or "identity" element of this change, not the ideological or deeper political implication, which is obviously subject to Obama's future governing steps that remain to be seen. However, at this point, that is all the data we have and to try to minimize it out of the usual cynicism is wrong I believe.

From the little we have seen there have already been several steps toward true change, even if it is not all going to be a radical revolution all at once (in this, I agree with Dukeoglue). If change is to be peaceful and not lead to tragedies like the bolshevik slaughter, it has to be gradual and through the rule of law and even compromise. The big corporations do have power, but so do the unions and many interest groups in the society, in a democracy there will always be a play between different groups. What is needed is an honest referee in government, and I will agree that this was missing lately, but Obama and others seem to be inclinded to move from this recent precedent. And Obama may have gotten money from corporations, but so did his political opponents (in fact we know that he was not the choice of the weapons and oil industry even in terms of fund raising). In a sense, Obama "owes" much to MANY sources, so that it is difficult to say that he is beholden to a single special interest.

Ulimately, both he and his opponents got money from corporations, but there is an important fact that "Not_funny" leaves out of his/her argument. The reason Obama outperformed any candidate in history in terms of fundraising was NOT the corporations, it was the unprecedented fact that he had 3 million simple citizen donors, with an averge donation of 80 dollars!! Yo do the math. This in itself is more money than Bush or Kerry raised in 2004.. So, even if all he is thinking is who gave him money and how he will make them donate to him again in 2008, the 3 million donors and their families and friends is a huge and powerful constituency.

it all remains to be seen of course, but to dismiss the whole thing as a farse a prior out of cynicism is wrong.

Dimitrios Doukoglou said...

As much as it pleases me to see a political debate unfold in my blog's comments, my joy is somewhat tempered by the fact that nobody else is going to see this, since you're posting on the old blog when I've moved to a new address.

Mel said...

I just wanted to say - here, seeing as this post is here - thank you for believing, man. Someone needs to, these days, and I'm glad it's... the new generation. ;)

In any case, I'm with you there. May the change come, and may we help it come more easily, even if it doesn't come the way we may expect it to, even if we may be disappointed yet again.

Dimitrios Doukoglou said...

Oh, C'MON! Are you kidding?
The post is there, as well!

Do I really need to make the old blog automatically redirect to the new one?