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April 2008

The somewhat flawed ideology of Barack Obama

When I originally started listening to what Barack Obama had to say, I had some serious doubts.  There was a lot of talk about whether Obama's message was simply "fluff".  But what exactly did we mean by this?

Recent events have shown me how his ideology and his approach to politics is sometimes backwards.  He says that change can only happen *after* we have united people with a shared sense that we are all Americans.  What a claim...that it is possible to unite such a population diverse in race, political affiliation, and thought.  In fact, he claims that not only is it possible, but it is essential if we ever hope to get "beyond" politics as usual and get something done.

But the question that remains largely unanswered is...what is it that we are supposed to be getting done?

He wants to bring hope to this fat, bloated, crumbling empire on the verge of destruction.  But the question remains...what exactly are we hoping for?

Yesterday he said that the reason we are unable to address issues that concern people is because we are unwilling to first "unite".  In making this claim, he is making the classic mistake of defining reality incorrectly...making the wrong assumptions about reality...and then claiming that things aren't turning out as he had hoped because people aren't behaving according to the way he imagined reality.  That's pretty much the approach of every ideolog, and that's where ideology always goes wrong (the point at which it confronts reality).

This flawed approach does have a lot to do with the mess he got himself into in the past weeks.  He might have admitted from the very beginning that, of course Rev. Wright has some crazy ideas...I don't agree with most of them but he's free to express them.  He might have admitted that he sometimes attends that church, but has his own ideas when it comes to religion.  He might have admitted that he attended this church because it was a good way to organize and get things done in Chicago.  But, instead, he was blinded by his own ideology...his own belief that everybody would come around to his way of thinking and completely change.  How foolish it was to expect Rev. Wright, or anybody else, to change what they can and can't say simply because he's running for President.  How foolish of him to expect white America to somehow understand where Rev. Wright is coming from...that this was somehow possible to do by wishing it were so.

This is not the way to unite people and not the way to get anything done.  The way to unite people is to present an idea they believe in or a vision they can hope for.  Unity isn't the first step or even the is the inevitable result of visionary leadership.  Visionary leaders don't tell us to consciously unify, they inspire us to unintentionally unify around a great vision.

Barack Obama is still my only choice for President, as flawed as he may be.  But I really wish he'd drop the Unity, Change, and Hope nonsense...and finally start giving us a clear vision of what that change will look like and what we are to be hoping for.  My gut told me from the beginning that there was a problem with his approach, and now we are starting to see the messy reality. 

I, personally, don't really care all that much about uniting with everybody "as an American". I care about my progressive values: ending the destruction of this planet, single-payer health care, free college education, establishing a better social safety net, ending war-profiteering, promoting true democracy in the US and around the world.  Maybe its time to start articulating some specifics.  Maybe its time to treat us like citizens of a democracy and let us decide, as adults, who we are going to unite with and why.

The next revolution is the "personal revolution"

There is no longer a way for us to fight the system directly. The system is designed to crush all those who directly oppose it. We have to find ways to "opt out".

Opt out from the commercial media
Opt out from debt
Opt out from consumerism
Opt out from conformist thinking and conformist behaviors
Opt out from sucking up the earth's resources for no good reason at all
Opt out from our sense of self importance and our sense that we can single-handedly change the world

Opt in to being the unique genetic mutations that we truly are
Opt in to authentic human relationships
Opt in to all of life's beauty and pleasure
Opt in to great music, art, films
Opt in to a great sex life
Opt in to travel
Opt in to new ideas
Opt in to life
Opt in to being you

If enough of us do that, the revolution will have happened before the establishment even notices.

The primary obstacle to real change

Over the past months I became a solid Barack Obama supporter.  There's no doubt that he's a breath of fresh air, and that an Obama presidency would bring about a fair amount of positive change.  But what we aren't going to get with Obama is fundamental, lasting change. 

The problem isn't Washington.  The problem isn't ABC, CNN, or Fox.  The primary problem isn't what our elected leader will or won't do. The problem is with us. 

The vast majority of Americans still give corporations far too much credibility.  Somehow they still take the commercial media seriously.  As far as I'm concerned, the debate around media credibility was closed with Noam Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent" (the film in 1993 and book in 1988).  Commercial media isn't credible simply because it is corporate.  Corporations will always have a pro-corporate bias.  Why?  Because they are corporations and that's what they do.  It can be no other way.

So what?  Well, naturally corporations favor themselves and their kind over the individual.  I simply don't understand why this idea hasn't sunk in on a massive scale.  To the contrary, even the most radical political thinkers still tend to place far too much importance on what is reported in the mainstream media.  For example, an independent radio show called Counterspin echoes outrage about bias in the media, on cue, every week.  We Progressives, with our countless media watchdogs, know that the corporate media isn't on our side.  Still, somehow we think that if we cry foul loudly and often enough...if we beg and plead...somehow it will change.

It won't change because it cannot.  It is what it is that that's just what it is. 

Hugo Chavez, for example, won the support of the vast majority of Venezuelans despite the fact that 4 out of 5 TV stations in the country were private, and were consistently and rabidly anti-Chavez.  But people in Venezuela knew the drill.  Enough of them simply understood the nature of business, of corporate interests, and they chose instead to get their information about Chavez from the one state TV network. 

When the day comes that the vast majority of Progressive-minded Americans either turn off corporate media altogether, or at least learn to take what they hear with an enormous grain of salt, nothing can ever truly change. 

In the end, the media will continue to have all the power as long as the majority of us give it this power.  As it stands today, they are completely controlling our dialog.  We either get outraged by manufactured outrage, or we get outraged by the fact that the outrage is manufactured at all.  Either way, we are letting them control out thoughts, moods, and actions.  Why?


I don't fall completely in love with an album too often, but have to say that the new album by Goldfrapp, "Seventh Tree" is everything that music should be.  Download it and please give it more than one listen.  The interesting thing about "Seventh Tree" is not just that every song is good, but that it works both on Friday night and Saturday darkness and light, sunshine and rain. 

Alison Goldfrapp is a beautiful woman inside and out, and I hope she inspires you as she has me.