I have refrained to express most of my political views in this blog, although I very often pushed the case for a better democracy though the means of real freedom of information and unbiased competition to the benefit of the public good. But today I thought I would write something different; something that will probably not matter as I’m a French citizen and hence cannot vote in the U.S.
Today is the Fourth of November 2008. The whole world is waiting for the results of the U.S. Presidential election as it will not be just an important moment among others, but as a defining moment, both for America and the world.
In many ways, the result of this election will change the world as we know it. Not because nothing else ever happened aside it: The global financial system is in turmoil and will probably not recover for a long time, the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan are anything but solved issues while the rest of the Middle East listens to the growing rumble of marching troops. The global warming affects everyone and especially the weakest, poorest on our planet, while endangering both the human kind and our entire ecosystem.
To these grim perspectives, America, and by extension the Western World at large have two possible options: Going down the pace our civilization has taken since three decades or trying to create something new. By something new I don’t just mean a reform of our financial system; you don’t reform an ideologically-driven and greed-powered system. Any reform will ultimately prove temporary; any reform will be just this, a reform, and what we need is a deep change in the way we work and our way of life. In short what we need is to devise an alternative to ourselves and an irrevocable departure from the ideologies that have been the plague of the past century. By ideologies, I mean of course nazism, fascism and communism; but I also mean what is defined through multiple names, from neo-conservatism to integrist market ideology.
To be sure, I usually hold the basic capitalistic system to be a system that works, and works even better when we achieve something very close to free and unbiased market. But no system defined by humans wether theoretical or practical can be perfect; and that’s why we can use tools such as the scientific method to progress. Unfortunately, the twentieth century that has seen an explosion in our technological endeavors has also seen an explosion in absolute theories. Our sin was not so much to have created them, as hateful as some of them can be: The past century has always looked for absolutes after having perverted its very idea of the Sacred. Our sin, rather, has been to implement them to their most extreme extent. 1945, 1989, 2008. Keep these three years in mind.
You may think my labeling of financial capitalism is overrated and extreme in its own terms: I beg to differ. What we call Globalization has started before we had even heard of that name, and the damages our financial system has caused in social, political and environmental terms is dramatically high. But as important as those damages, the methods that were used and that are used today, only succeeded in enrich a few while breaking everyone else’s moral ground, unveiling the unacknowledged intent behind thirty years of subtle lies and half-truths: The end of the State as we know it and the coming of age of a corporate-controlled countries. There is no need to believe in plots, nor to be a conspiracy nut: most of this was actually thought and implemented by some powerful people to gain more power and money. That’s what many of us, if not all, want, although to most of us, more buying power at the supermarket is usually enough.
On an economical point of view, I guess I finally managed to understand the issue through an economical bias that can be explained in the following equation: Capitalism and traditional economics demanded the creation of wealth (through work, mostly) and its redistribution in (hopefully rising) salaries. Modern capitalism was generating wealth through speculation, wild return on investment, and the breaking of salaries while keeping the created wealth to itself. This is how we found ourselves in the situation where as the rich were getting richer, the poor were getting poorer and growing as the middle-class was (and is) disappearing. You will notice that what is troubling here is the trend towards breaking the middle-class. Not only can it be bad for the economy, but it is also the middle-class that has been at the origin of democracies worldwide.
One solution to those ever diminishing salaries and the offshoring of jobs was the seemingly unlimited credit. Few dared to point out that as the credit was stretching, so was the time of paying back the loan, which can be assimilated to a time of servitude. Servitude you say? Isn’t that a bit extreme? Few officially declared free men and citizens went from freedom to slavery, but most of them who did had a progressive slope to it.
Now that the credit has disappeared -at least to the regular consumers and citizens- the only issue is to know what will be the way to a recovering economy. Rising salaries? More credit? Something else? A new energy source? I am too ignorant to know it, but let’s go back to the elections.
What the U.S.A need is a man strong enough to stand in the middle of the storm unabashed by the special interests’ groups and ideologists of all kinds. What this country needs is someone who knows better than sticking to the talking points and being “convinced” by the ideas of a past generation. What this country needs is a man who will bring solutions to take out America and the Western World at large from the moral blunder that eight years of an hypocritical war “ against terror” and neo-conservative ideology has done to what I dare to call our common values. By the way, can someone tell me where Ben Laden is? That’s the last chapter I have sticked to ever since 2001. But as I write myself every so often, things change. V. Klemperer, a german philosopher who was privileged to have studied nazism at its closest, stressed that any ideology always comes with a “barnum side-effect”. It means that the leaders of that ideology or even the system itself keep some room for some contradictions designed to suit the ones who benefit the most of that ideology. In Communist Russia, the political caste was enjoying varied and regular food everyday, the rest of the population running mostly on potatoes and cabbage.
The dominant ideology of our present world has told us the market was not just always right, but that it was the only salvation possible. But the market, albeit a very effective tool if regulated to the benefits of citizens, is neither right, nor the only system possible. By erecting a tool as an idol, the rules of the game got twisted, and neither the generations of the first half of the past century, nor the ones of the “baby-boom” could help it: one was entrenched in doubts and ghosts of the second world-war, the other had inherited the illness of their parents: the inability to think out of an ideologically-defined framework. Yuppies have been communists, socialists, anarchists, or weed-smokers; they ended up being CEOs, shareholders and lawyers, but few understood the merit of a real alternative, let alone the benefits of a truly open and inclusive society.
Sarcasm put aside, I hope that America has this man; but it would be her chance, the chance to push the country in a new, hopefully glorious era and the chance to change the world, because, contrary to what many French will tell you, America still leads the world, in many ways yet.
I hope and think that this man could be Barack Obama. I believe he will bring change to Washington, and good to the world. He will be faced by challenges of all kind, and I hope he will be successful: for of his success our freedom and example will ultimately depend. Barack Obama also seems to be someone who understands that our time is the time for change: His use of the Internet as a political tool shows how much he has learned and understood from our world and from what needs to change. I am praying for tonight, and wish for a new, glorious dawn, rising over the Land of Washington, the Land of Liberty.