Monday, January 19, 2009

Give Obama a chance

Today was the inauguration of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth president of the United States. Obama has, somehow, elicited a lot of enthusiasm and support around the world - something quite unusual for a politician.

The thing I find most interesting about the Obama phenomenon is not so much Obama himself (no disrespect intended) but the sense of hope and interest that he elicits in people. I think it says more about us than about him. Or rather, even if he's not able to fulfill our hopes and desires for the world, the fact that we desire goodness and admire and want to be led by someone that exhibits goodness, is a good sign to me.

I get slightly annoyed of hearing politicians speculate on why people have lost interest in politics, because their analysis are usually quite facile or off target (it's the media, stupid). We fail to be enthused by politics for many reasons, but importantly because we've lost interest in the political game, of oppositional politics, and the spin of it. It's about power politics, which is justified by the need of power to effect change. Unfortunately though, when we sacrifice our own internal compass to attain power, we run the risk of never ever retrieving it again.

Obama seems to seems to promise a different kind of politics - a wiser kind. He could've chosen a plush life as a university professor or a well-paid position in the legal profession, but, although he did both, he also chose to work as a community organiser. And this further led him towards a political engagement. He has shown in different ways that he's made choices based on his moral convictions over and above short-time personal gain - a sign of wisdom. This, and not intelligence, is what I think distinguishes him from George W Bush.

But whether Obama is THE solution to ALL our problems (which is highly unlikely), I think we should notice our enthusiasm and hopes and take them seriously. I think we should reflect on what our enthusiasm says about who we are and what we really care about, and then chose to act accordingly or in congruence with our internal voice. Why wait for Obama to be good or honest, or straightforward, or caring - lets honour the part of us that wants it by choosing it for ourselves. Let's be wise too!

And let's also give Obama a chance. He is after all a mere human.