Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Best is Yet to Come

I try to avoid the politics of national elections. I know, I know. I'm well aware of all the arguments about engagement and all that, but when you only have a choice between, as Noam Chomsky put it once, the two wings of the business party, then what's the point?

In  my own country I vote in any case. Normally I'll vote Green - always have done. At least in the UK and EU there's a chance your vote will count. I can even get mildly excited when the Greens win a seat or two. Local politics is a different beast. I'm all for local politics.

Anyway, it didn't escape my notice that there was an election in America this week, and that one of the candidates actually won it. It was, in fact, impossible not to notice because there was much rejoicing in Europeland about the person who had won it. On this particular morning I found myself listening to one of Denmark's national radio stations which, between breathless reportage about dancing in the streets in the good old US of A, they played songs such as 'Things can only get better' and 'Wake up it's a beautiful morning'.

America, we were told, had decided to re-elect someone who would bring about an end to the recession, enforce world peace and halt global warming in its tracks. The Messaih, in other words, was having his third coming.

Later, I found myself at work, where some people were still in a state of some excitement due to the news which was oozing out of every iOrifice. One lady was even wearing the stars and stripes over her normal business attire. I managed to avoid all eye contact and banter until I was cornered in the kitchen by one of the copywriters while I was brewing a cup of tea. Isn't the news great? she enthused. Umm, yeah, I responded in flat tones that I hoped were just the right side of neutrality so as not to be mistaken for irony. She looked at me in a puzzled manner, perhaps assessing whether I was a crazed Mitt Romney supporter.

"It's funny how every news channel in Europe is so excited about Obama," I added.

"Well not really, because it means the world isn't going to hell now," she ventured, a little too fiercely for my liking.

"What makes you think that?" I responded, puzzled.

But my question was enough to confirm her suspicions that I was one of 'them'. Without responding she upped tail and walked out, leaving me to strain my tea bag in shameful solitude.

Afterwards, at my desk, I began thinking back to the time when I really thought that the election result in America made much of a difference. Twelve years ago I was on a pretty damned remote island in the Bay of Bengal, sitting on a beach with a crackly hand-held short wave radio, trying to pick up the BBC World Service while a group of other people eagerly listened in. The signal came and went, with voices in a number of languages being stretched and distorted and strangled by eerie alien whining sounds as I angled the antenna to get the best signal.

It was then that a cut-glass accent voice appeared out of the ether like an aural apparition and it said this: "George Bush has won the election in the United States." Immediately after this dinket of poisonous information had been relayed the distortion and whining came back and it was as if the message we had heard had disappeared like a genie set loose from a bottle washed up on the beach. My fellow listeners, namely my wife, an Indian fisherman, a German girl and a Kiwi couple all groaned out loud simultaneously. Here on this blasted strand we learned of our fate. Shortly afterwards several coconuts were hacked open, topped up with illegal Indian rum and the whole lot of us got gloomily drunk.

Back to the present and I'm unable to get as involved with the election result as I used to. There are so many what ifs and what abouts. What about the foreign policies that lock the US and much of the West into intractable and unwinnable wars? What about global warming? What about ocean acidification? Corporate lobbying? GMOs (which also won, with Californian voters giving the green light to be shafted by the industrial frankenfood lobbies)? Obama's drone wars? Topsoil loss biodiversity extinction ethnic cleansing feedback loops? The fiscal cliff?

Some Danish news programmes stated that Obama was going to prevent another recession - just by his sheer cussedness. He was going to make the US 'energy independent', whatever that means, while at the same time tackling climate change and helping the people hit by 'superstorm' Sandy, and make all that debt disappear because it was frankly not the kind of thing that he was into. He was going to stand up for the little guy and he was going to build a world for us where all of our children would have better opportunities and would become prosperous and slim and not feckless and fat. And most important of all, his wife was going to carry on being sassy and wearing different outfits, which is really what everyone wanted to hear.

Things Can Only Get Better.

ps Sometimes it's hard being a sourpuss.

pps At least Mitt Romney didn't win.

ppps My wife: "I hear Obama won the election."

The local baker (a middle-aged woman): "I didn't even realise the old mayor had retired."


  1. Yeah (yawn), same-old, same-old. As much as the media cheerleaders tried to hype the crowd into something resembling a frenzy it was all pretty staid and we ended up pretty much status quo.

    Me? I voted Green, as if it would make a difference (it did to me), in a county that elected Romney but in a state that went abundantly for Obama. Go figure.

    1. Who was it who made a pun on 'white heat' changing it to 'the white bread of American politics'?

  2. Hi Jason,

    I'm an American expat. I share your feelings about the recent election for the most part. I voted for Obama the first time around, but I grew disgusted with him during his first term. He fulfilled NONE of his campaign promises. Worse still, he didn't even try. His signature piece of legislation, the health care "reform" package commonly known as Obamacare, was a huge giveaway to the corporate health insurance industry and was intended as a means of preempting meaningful health care reform. But more troubling was his signing of the NDAA bill, which gives the president the authority to murder anyone in any place on the earth, including American citizens within the borders of the United States. I won't bother going into the rest of the tired litany of his failures except to briefly mention his expansion of the drone war in the Middle East, his utter failure to prosecute the Bushies for their crimes, his massive bailouts for bankers, his failure to close Guantanamo, and his failure to put his weight behind worldwide efforts to combat global warming.

    The fact is, most Obama supporters, both within and outside the United States, have been totally duped by the hype surrounding Obama. Let me be clear: Obama's victory in both elections represented the triumph of appearance over substance.

    That said, I should point out that, sadly, the alternative to Obama was significantly worse. You started your piece with a quote from Noam Chomsky. I should point out that Chomsky is on record as saying there are significant enough differences between the Democratic and Republican parties to warrant voting for the Democratic Party.

    I chose not to vote because I did not want to condone the murderous and unconstitutional acts of Obama, and also because I did not want to participate in a system that I consider corrupt and illegal. But, I am registered to vote in a strongly blue state, so I knew that I could sit out the election without any untoward consequences. Had I lived in a state like Ohio, I would have faced a dilemma and I probably would have held my nose and voted for Obama. This is simple realpolitik.

    You refer to the "election" of GWB in 2000. Well, 35,000 people in the state of Florida chose to ignore the rules of realpolitik and voted for Nader in that election. The margin of victory for Bush in that state was less than 500. Had those voters voted for the only left-leaning (or centrist) candidate with any chance of winning (Gore), then Bush would have not been in a position to steal the White House with the help of the criminal Supreme Court. And, I would argue that the world would now be a radically different place had Gore won. I believe that 911 would not have happened, America would not be mired in occupations of Iraq and Afganistan, and quite likely the Global Financial Crisis would not have occurred.

    You argue that there is no difference between Romney and Obama and that it makes no difference who wins. That's a little facile. True, in terms of foreign policy and the economy, it really does make little difference: either way, America will continue its militarist policies and only the 1% will be represented in government. But, Obama will likely nominate at least one Supreme Court justice, maybe two, and he'll nominate a center-right justice, rather than a far-right justice, as Romney would have done. That will have lasting and meaningful impacts in America and in the world. Also, image and identity is important. Had Romney won, it would have empowered and encouraged the Teabaggers and other regressive right-wing elements in the United States. Also, by electing Obama, the American people sent a message to the world saying: "We stand for change, openness and inclusivity." It's too bad that Obama won't actually work for those things, but it's important that the world can see that America has at least as many relatively enlightened folks as bitter lunkheads. As any psychologist or doctor will tell you, attitude and faith are important.

    1. "You argue that there is no difference between Romney and Obama and that it makes no difference who wins. That's a little facile."

      Maybe, but from an outsider's perspective, there will be very little difference in foreign policy - perhaps none. Anyway, I apologise if it was a little facile - it was meant in that way because I gave up being serious about politics years ago.

      In any case, I'm sure that everyone realises there are many enlightened and clever people in the US - just not the critical mass that is needed to make a difference. Same as everywhere, really.

    2. Anon,

      Your reasoning regarding how to vote swayed me to check Obama even though I'm in a solidly blue state (Washington). Yes, the Obamacare farce, the failure to prosecute those who engineered and benefited from the financial collapse (and hiring two of them to direct recovery efforts), and the frightening drone wars out of all the science fiction I read as a kid are significant black marks. But Romney would have been another dumb puppet as bad as W, and who knows whose hand would have been in him at any given time. So, just to be safe, I voted for him instead of Green, like I usually do. My usual maxim--if you're going to throw your vote away, make it count--gave in to realpolitik, which is ultimately fear.

      All politics are indeed local. By Washington passing gay marriage and legalizing pot, we have some movement to beat back the troglodytes. In fact, Washington completely rejected the Right's advance here: even with all the money pouring in from secretive superPACs, all but one or two Republican candidates were defeated.


  3. I recently watched two videos on Youtube.

    Some of the people in the Obama video make statements, full of fervour like.

    "He's just great, the policies are great"

    "I'm so excited, health insurance"

    "Obama, Obama, Obama"

    In the second video we have a massive North Korean rally.

    The North Korean stand in regimented lines and act in a very North Korean manner. With stoic fervour, if such a thing exists.

    My question is, who is more brain washed the Americans or the North Koreans?

    1. Well, at least in the US you don't get murdered in your bed for not liking the leader.

      Most people are brainwashed these days, some by marketing and some by patriotic nationalism - and some by a mixture of both. We live in complex times and a lot of people can't see how manipulated they are. That's my simple take on it, anyway.

    2. You may not get murdered in your bed but you are mocked and pilloried in the media and social media for deigning to question the status quo.

      It's the principal I believe that matters.

      I use the term loosely but the American 'actress' Stacey Dash copped a monumental amount of abuse for supporting Mitt Romney during the recent Presidential election.

      I don't know if it was because she is

      1. Black
      2. A woman
      3. An actress
      or all of the above that attracted this vitriol.

      Potentially is it because all three should have guaranteed her allegiance to the Obama Cult of Personality.

      I am reminded of the famous comment attributed to pastor Martin Niemöller about the inactivity of the German people following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of those they deemed to have contrarian views to their own.

      First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

      Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

      Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

      Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.

      Some readers may question why I have this particular opinion. I am not German but spent a considerable part of my childhood living in West Germany while The Wall existed. My parents had many friends who had escaped from the DDR and I listened to many discussions regarding life in the DDR. One friend of my parents told me that it was not the threat of being beaten up by the Stasi that crushed peoples spirit, but rather the fact that you were told what you will think and say and any deviation from this would not be tolerated.

      It is a terrible thing not to be able speak your mind.

      Before fellow followers of this blog wish to attack, contradict or demean my opinion, I would like to point out that the profile I have chosen to use is Anonymous and are you critizing me for questioning Obama or because you disagree with the principal of my comment.

      Think about it.

    3. My father has always voted for the opposition as it 'keeps them on their toes'. That may be so but that viewpoint has now become redundant in the US certainly, and is becoming more and more so in the UK.

  4. Are Danes really that weird and out of touch? Wow.

    Actually, in the real world turnout was down. Obama appears to have won with 8 million fewer votes than in 2008, plus a reduced margin, and his major party opponent was a corporate raider with enough ethical questions about his business practices to probably disqualify him for office.

    Admittedly, the gap between what the "mainstream" (which means mainly broadcast) media and what is actually happening has grown to the point where just being reasonably informed means going out of your way to avoid conversations about politics with "normal" people. My last years as office fauna myself were getting more difficult in this regard. Its a real problem.

    1. Ed - well, maybe. Like most people in Europe the relationship to the US is one of patronising smugness, combined with fervent worshipping. As Facebook would say 'it's complex'.

      But yeah, the news media here is very simplistic when it comes to foreign stories. Everything is basically cast in terms of 'Good' and 'Bad'. And Obama is still seen as something of a saint, compared to the Republican devils.

  5. Had Gore won his election I doubt very much that the world today would be any different. The same forces that control the world, and especially US politics, today controlled the world then and no-one could have altered that.
    Peak resources, wealth disparity, climate change, demographics, pollution, are all forces beyond our political control.

    1. Too true. I only mentioned it in a 'scales falling from my eyes' kind of way. Still, at the time, GWB getting elected really did feel like something seriously bad had happened. And it did.

  6. clyde, I was going to say as much.

    Awakened people talking about American politics has confused me for quite some time now. Same with state sponsored economics. It's all a crock of shit, and we all know it's a crock of shit. How could you be awake and believe any of it? Don't get me confused, I'm not advocating any conspiracy, just that...well...they don't count your damn votes. They don't care what you think...they=the corporatocracy.

    As far as Iraq/afghanistan/libya/any other middle eastern country we are occupying, it has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with oil. It really is that simple. I'd like to hear somebody reading a blog titled "22billionenergyslaves" argue the point.

    For the record:

    at 1:40 he begins making my's a George Carlin clip

  7. I voted for Obama. There, I said it. I almost voted Green. But I went with the Democrat. I know where our civilization is headed, and I know there's nothing any national politician can do to change the basic trajectory. But I'm still thinking that the way down can be bumpy or very bumpy, and maybe a Democrat won't resist it all quite as strongly or flail about so much. And then, to counter Matt Stone somewhat, I hate Democrats, but I really f****** hate Republicans...

  8. Interesting. Here in Sweden, we see much the same thing, with ridiculous levels of coverage and with a clear consensus that the Democratic candidate would be good and the other bad. Despite the rhetoric, Denmark and Sweden aren't all that different.



I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.