Out of a bad beginning…
I got home yesterday just in time to see all but the first few words of the speech Obama made to a crowd so vast it has only once been matched in British history. It wasn’t exuberant. It wasn’t overly optimistic. But it did display the kind of grinding courage needed to think there might one day be light at the end of the tunnel. It is a speech many radicals, and probably many of my friends, would only have watched to sneer at, but I think I saw in it a glimpse of just what Obama might be up to, something exciting, if not totally satisfying.
His allusions to the bible, to biblical justice, focused largely around the economy. What he said, whilst bitter news to outright anti-capitalists, is muchly true; that when the economy does well, almost everyone seems to benefit, even if the extent to which this happens is disproportionate. The problem is, the poorest always suffer much more when things go wrong, and right now, they’re going extremely badly.
The problem is perhaps one of perspective; to a British activisit, 3 issues of war, one of environment and one of injustice stand out: Iraq, Afganistan, Palestine, Climate Change and the workings of the global economy. If we believe the rhetoric of those who talk of an American President as a leader of the free world, then obviously, he has to deliver on these. But he isn’t. We know he isn’t and we certainly don’t ever want him to be; indeed leading the free world is just oxymoronic.
The task facing Obama may involve leadership on global issues, and in the case of Climate Change, he got it about 2/3rds right (harnessing the soil sounds like bio-fuels, which are a whole other issue), but he has many more issues to deal with. Perhaps with our European post-colonial guilt, we forget too easily that the divides between rich and poor inside America are almost as great as those outside. And they won’t be solved without lots of people working hard.
His speech left some interesting holes in it. The way I understand things, one could say that community co-operatives would fit in his all-benefiting capitalism. He reminded me that, whilist Capitalism will never be just, the Capitalism of today is riddled with injustices not completely inherent in the idea of a “free market”, of freedom to own property, to make one’s life better. Reforms can only go so far, but the distance they can go could be far enough to put food on tables and roofs over heads. And there is far more certainty, particularly in history, that this might work out.
In the language of those in radicals, what he said yesterday was luke warm and feeble, but in the language of the powerful around him, what he said must have been quite unsettling, and thats what really matters, because he, and we, have to start with the world today if we ever want to acheive a brighter tomorrow.
He may not solve Israel’s problems, or Palestine’s, or Iraq’s, or Iran’s, and he may not be able to do much to solve global injustices, but if he truly has the guts to end those government programs that benefit the rich, and start new ones to help the poor; if he can made the number of black young men heading to college far exceed those heading for jail, and if he can make America’s superior medical abilities into reality for even the poorest, and perhaps even embarras some of those who wanted to see themselves as “fair capitalists” along the way, he will have made lives better for more than he made them worse.