Archive for November 5th, 2008
Is there a name for that feeling you get on a day when you realize you are witnessing history? That the world is not the same as it was yesterday?
The USA has joined hands to end its dark days. Its people are victorious, and lucky, and we are grateful. I believe Obama will be a great president – intelligent, thoughtful, innovative and courageous. As a friend says, if he delivers %50 of what he promised, he will go down in history as one of the worlds great leaders. But in a way, it almost doesn’t matter what he does now. the fact that he was elected is such an inspiration that I’m sure we’ll see it’s consequences ripple through the globe.
First, there’s the issue of his skin colour. I know that should not be an issue, I know that it would be better if there was no point in mentioning it. But there is. He’s black. He’s the first black president of the USA. And he proves that the barriers that once existed should not be taken as given. Yes, there still are injustices, prejudices, and inequalities everywhere – and non-white people of America know that all too well. Yet these can be transcended, challenged and demolished. No, not can be. Need to be. Expect many a speech to begin with the words “if a black man can be the president of the USA…”, from political rally to supermarket checkout queue, from kindergarden to factory. If a black man can be the president of the US, there’s no reason I should take that ____.
Then there’s the issue of power, and who owns the government. Up until yesterday, US elections were decided by the candidates ability to bring in big money. Under that rule, the president’s first account was to the people who held the big money. Obama tells another story, of mobilizing masses, of an average donation of $80. This is not just a tactical issue. Its a matter of allegiance. A president who owes his presidency (in the literal, financial sense of “owe”) to grandmas across the country has the freedom to serve the interests of these grandmas. This sends a message to political systems across the world. It shifts the balance of power from the one who has millions to the millions who have one.
For quite some time, my response to Clay Shirky’s book was “so where is everybody“? Obama is saying “here they are, right here with me on this historic day“. If technology now gives us the power to self-orgenise, mobilise, and coordinate action, why are people still sitting back and allowing the world to run them over? Perhaps part of it was that they didn’t believe they had the power. Even if the $80 donation or masses of grandmas story is part fiction, it doesn’t matter. Because that’s the story that is going to define social dynamics from this day on. In Tel-Aviv, it’s already happening (Hebrew, ht Hananc).