The drama of Obama
Make no mistake, the World woke up this morning a vastly changed place: now an African with an Asian educational background is the most powerful human being on Earth.This alone is a cause for celebration, as the very facts of his background and upbringing should shape his thoughts and feelings, which in turn will have a profound effect on the planet. As Marshall McCluhan said: ‘the media is the message’.
In the mid 1970s, as a curate in multi-racial Old Trafford, Manchester, I caused a minor media flurry when I publicly criticised the new Conservative leader, Margaret Thatcher, when she issued a statement which was a pale pink version of Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ speech. My, predominantly black, immigrant and first generation, congregation of West Indian extract, would have heard her comments as a direct challenge to their right to be in our country. How far we have come in the past thirty years, and the moving sight of Jesse Jackson in tears of emotion at the successful election of a fellow Afro-American demonstrates that the emphasis has changed from the need to have a civil rights movement to a new generation of black leaders who have taken the power to change to themselves. So ‘rejoice’, the world is a definably different and betters world today than yesterday.
But, also, have caution: the southern States of America seemed to have turned out against Obama and, although it was not successful, there was some evidence that the racist vote was exercised in some volume throughout the States. In addition, regardless of colour, class or creed, any leader is to be judged on their record: and Obama’s is one yet to be played. America is a deeply divided nation, with massive wealth in a small number of hands and great poverty in the hands of many. Those troops presently dying in Iraq and Afghanistan are overwhelmingly from the ranks of the poor and under-privileged. According to those on the ground, re-construction is still to take place in the poorest parts of New Orleans years after the levees broke, despite the existence of massive amounts of aid funding which is still doing the rounds of companies and businesses who can make capital out of the disaster. The fact that only about 70% of Americans hold passports suggests a less than educated attitude to world politics, and vested interest is rife: even in the White House. Both Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky remind us that any successful election campaign needs backing by millions of dollars from business and the financial world. This sponsorship does not come free, but at a price: and the price is often the conforming of policies to benefit business. Here is Noam Chomsky: Disillusionment with formal democracy has been evident in the US as well…there was much clamor about the “stolen election” of November 2000, and surprise that the public did not seem to care very much. Likely reasons are suggested by opinion polls, which reveal that on the eve of the election, three quarters of the population regarded it as a game played by large contributors, party leaders and the PR industry, which crafted candidates to say “almost anything to get themselves elected” (Hegemony or Survival” page 139). We can only hope that when Barack Obama begins to help frame the future of America, and of the World therefore, he is able to remember that his most important vested interests are amongst the poor and deprived, and they must come first and all else a very poor second.
So, we must revel in the great leap forward that has been made in the cause of humanity; wait and be prudent in our judgements on Barack’s policies and, until then, ‘put not thy trust in princes’ (Psalm 146)