Thursday, November 13, 2008

Spare change?

Can Barack Obama be a black Clinton and an American Mandela simultaneously? Can he be an agent of change and a corporate tool at the same time?

Physicists have discovered that we all live in many alternative universes simultaneously. A universe in eternal fluctuation between wave and particle contains infinite possibilities. We are all kaleidoscopes of the many personalities living within us—or, as the Greek philosopher put it in a more general context, you never step in the same river twice. So, like the rest of us, Obama too can have many interpretations.

There can be no doubt, even this early, that Obama will govern like Clinton, with the same foreign policy and economic team that enforce the ruling elite consensus from the “left” side of America’s permanent binary government—the “humanitarian” interventionists, the “velvet glove” wing (alternating with the “iron fist” Republican wing). Anyone who expected “change we can believe in” to extend beyond the elite consensus of what is “politically possible” in the Age of Terror was letting their hope run away with them. It’s nice to live in a dream world, but this isn’t it.

Obama’s Clintonesque nature has been apparent from the beginning, from his contributions from Wall Street, to his “centrist” betrayals of core progressive principles—for example, his FISA vote, where he lost many progressives who might have supported him otherwise. It is very likely that Obama, at some probably early point in his effort to “govern from the center,” will face opposition from a united progressive left. For the reality-based community, corporations still rule. Let there be no doubt about that.

It is, in fact, disturbing how little change we are seeing from the prospective Obama administration. His first appointments were Clinton veterans: Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, and Clinton chief of staff John Podesta to lead the Obama transition team. This brings the Israel lobby and establishment liberals on board. Clinton’s first secretary of state, Warren Christopher, will oversee the Obama transition at the State Department; Clinton’s second secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, is an Obama adviser. The military industrial complex will continue to guide the nation’s foreign policy. We won’t be leaving Afghanistan anytime soon.

It is also increasingly likely that, like the Clinton administration, an Obama Justice Department will quietly retire investigations of illegal activity by yet another criminal Bush administration. There may be congressional hearings, like there were into Iran-Contra, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, and the sale of WMDs to Saddam Hussein—all of which would have implicated George Bush Sr., had they been followed to their logical end—but just like those hearings, there will be no real accountability for the wrongdoers. There’s a reason Bill Clinton and Bush 41 are the best of friends.

The psyops activity setting up the exoneration of George W. Bush and company has already started. There are articles this week in both the Washington Post and the New York Times, talking about the need to move on and not waste time prosecuting political decisions, in the Post article; and exploring the history of executive privilege as claimed by former presidents in the past, and how “unclear” the precedents are for requiring testimony from an ex-president, in the Times. The power elite takes care of its own.

But can Obama also be an “American Mandela,” as I have suggested before is his potential?

Among the many universes in which we live is the archetypal, or mythic universe. In that universe, real human beings come to represent ideals that have universal meaning. In the archetypal universe, Obama is a “hero” figure, representing “hope” and “change.” The major significance of Obama’s election is at this symbolic level. Obama is the “hero” who broke through the American color barrier, a central component in the national character, enshrined in our Constitution. Having slain both the vast rightwing and Clinton dragons, he is a genuine hero. All the babies being named Barack are a testament to Obama as a heroic symbol. Obama’s election resonates most strongly at our subconscious levels, where archetypes live.

But even in the “real” world, Obama’s election has special qualities, that signal the potential for an enormous shift at conscious levels, too.

For one thing, his description as “The One,” the term in the Matrix trilogy for the messianic hero, comes at least partly from Obama’s own otherworldly nature. One of his foreign policy advisers described his impressions of Obama to a reporter from the New Yorker, of his “degree of self-reflection, self-awareness, and psychological wholeness…Having worked for two Presidents and with many Presidential candidates during the last thirty years, I have not seen one as psychologically well balanced, and as good about not injecting his ego into a problem.” The biggest change will be not having a president who’s a psychopath, but Obama is a unique political figure.

A second possibility for shifting the national dynamic is the unprecedented “army of volunteers” waiting for instructions from a President Obama. The choices he asks that army to support by pressuring Congress to act, can move the nation in directions even out of control of the power elite. Although that is, however, unlikely to happen, it is possible that large progressive steps can be taken in health care and education, among other traditional Democratic interests. America is ready for a new New Deal.

Historian Michael Lind published an article at Salon recently, “Obama and the Fourth Republic.” Lind is among those historians who divide American history into three 72-year “republics,” which share common characteristics. Obama would be the first president of the Fourth Republic.

These republican ages begin with a strong president, and a three decade period of federalizing the government under the principles of Alexander Hamilton: a strong central government, central banking, infrastructure spending, and enlarging the bureaucracy. In the latter half of these republican ages, Jeffersonian principles of states rights and individualism, and a weak central government return to prominence. The ages all come to a close with a failed presidency.

It’s remarkable how closely the actual history tracks to this model. The first presidents of the republics were Washington, Lincoln, and FDR—three of our greatest presidents, whose administrations all consolidated power in an activist federal government. The final, failed presidents were Buchanan, Hoover and our own George W. Bush, considered by many historians already to be the worst president in American history. Obama has nowhere to go but up.

But perhaps the most important reason Obama could become an American Mandela is that, whatever happens, enormous change is already upon us, and he is going to be forced to react. The world economy is collapsing; it could be worse than the Great Depression, serious people say. Climate change is happening faster than anyone expected. Ecosystems are altering dramatically. An overabundant humanity is running out of food, water and oil—the foundation stone of the postindustrial economy.

If Obama can keep his cool through all that, and prevent the nation from either sliding deeper into fascism or crumbling into violent anarchy along the way, he’ll deserve some credit, at least.

Let’s just hope it’s not really the end of history.


VMCebollero said...

A very sober and pragmatic view, indeed.

After eight years of unbridled fascism I remain jaded, to say the least as I'm sure most thinking people also. There are however movements afoot to restore our beloved constitution. Perhaps the carnage and wasteland we see in the aftermath of what appears more like neo-Nazism could be the catalyst for a meaningful and peaceful revolution. To borrow a right wing catch phrase, "I pray that we will be successful".

I agree with your comments regarding quantum physics. The movie "What the bleep do we know" is a wonderful overview. From the quantum view the left wing catch phrase, "Yes we can" is clearly true. I've been going through a metamorphic transition personally as the internet expands my world into new dimensions of Light and Sound. Perhaps the old Twilight Zone TV show title was a harbinger of things to come for the Baby Boomer generation. Because it is true that our journey if of "Sight and Sound".


Winnacunnet JAG said...

Obama is unique as a public figure in today's world in that he is able to inhabit so many conflicting "types" at the same time, two of which you describe here. I was fascinated recently by reading a letter to the NY Times Magazine saying that it is particularly American to embrace opposing ideas about the same person, so that Obama can be the latch-key son of a Kenyan man raised in a single parent home and yet also at the same time remind everyone of JFK. So I think yes, he can be a corporate tool and an American Mandela at the same time. Only in America!