6 Nov 2008

Scott Wollschleger’s Realistic View of Obama

It’s great to see how you weave this all together. For sure what you say is right. I want to offer an alternate perspective. Consider this an op-ed.

Is there not a danger in a leader's eloquence and in a people's music? There is no doubt that Obama represents a new era, and this is worth celebrating. Obama won not only because of his eloquence speeches, but also because of his sublime and eloquent public relations campaign, which far surpassed the right wing's efforts this time around. There is something unspoken about Obama’s supermarketing public relations industry. Those on the left remained silent on the issue because it seemed like it might be the only way to win this thing, and it worked. Obama saturated the media flows with his messages. It was unprecedented. But what does it do for the future of our democracy? Why did he opt out of public financing? What if the Right had managed to flood the media flows with their messages? We need to be wary of those who use media to shape perceptions. When it comes down to it, is a form of manipulation.
Music can be dangerous because it sways our passions and can sidestep reason. It is the perfect complement to manipulation. I remember a story about how soldiers in Iraq blasted Metallica in their tanks when blowing up other humans, it pumped them up. Music creates a short circuit in our movements; it makes us move without reasons. I feel slightly cautious when a public speaker becomes too musical. How was it that Hitler was able to hypnotize a whole generation into unimaginable acts? I am not saying Obama is Hitler. What I am saying is we need to be cautious of being led. My feeling is our future would have to be one without a leader. When it comes down to it a leader cannot be trusted. Cooperation is not led.
I saw an interview with Dr. West today. He said that Obama at this point symbolized and represented change. But he stressed we needed to see substance and not just symbols. So let’s take Dr. West's advice and talk about substance and not representations, and maybe leave aside racial or national identifications too. Today Obama choose Rahm Emanuel as White House Chief of Staff. Emanuel is has been called part of the right wing of the Democratic Party. He supports the military occupation of Israel. Does this sound like change? 70% of Americans do not support the military occupation of Israel. Why is this guy so close to the newly elected president? Ok, maybe I am being hard on Mr. Obama, but he works for the people and not for special interests such as AIPAC. Today Obama is vetting for Treasury Secretary, who's on the list? Ah, I see, Lawrence summers, the same man that worked for the World Bank and said that Africa was "underpolluted" http://www.forces.org/evidence/who/files/wb.htm Is he really on this short list? Come on Barack! Who are you? I am starting to feel like republican.
All this aside, I am hopeful that things will get better, and the arrival of the tragicomic will be a positive thing. But I still think we cannot let down our guard. The real fight just started. Let’s not wander off dreaming.

Response, CS:

Scott is right to curb our naïveté, to be sure that our hope is mature and realistic rather than blind optimism.

Obama’s eloquence caused people to act on their emotions, and elect someone imperfect (although every election is the choice of lesser evils). If McCain had won, we might have concluded that his ad campaigns manipulated people to vote for him, just like Obama’s eloquence. So the value of eloquence should not be pragmatic, that it gets people to do what you want them to do. The value of eloquence should be the communication of intensity, and it is up to the receiver to choose what to do with it.

By forcing together tragic and comic, tragicomic hope is intense. Heightened eloquence, by being tragicomic, communicates intensity to its listeners. Intensity is a swirl of competing forces. When we receive intensity, we have the forces to allow us to become and change into something new. So while these forces may have caused some people to become voters for an imperfect candidate, so long as Obama continues communicating intensity, people will have the forces necessary to become other new things as well. The way people choose to change is not Obama’s decision; he merely communicates the power to do so. Those of us who realize this would be wise to benefit from Obama’s intense eloquence.

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