Saturday, May 8, 2010

In Obama We Trust

Glenn Greenwald comments on the prevailing democratic liberal stance as we near Obama's nomination to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court: "Obama's choice [is] a good one by virtue of the fact that it's Obama choice."

This is a perfect summation of what remains the prevailing attitude regarding Obama. It was also the attitude toward Bill Clinton, welcomed by Party Liberals after Reagan and Bush 1. (I was excoriated by liberal friends for criticizing Clinton in the 90s. Friends were often enraged that I dare charge Clinton with doing some of the very things Bush and Reagan had.)

Glenn Greenwald points out, first, the obvious absurdity in this, second, the double standard of Democrats, and, third, the lack of thought, which is what should concern us the most — the sheer unwillingness to think that characterizes mainstream and conservative ideology in the US today.

That mainstream and right-wing (and plenty of the left) are devoured by a Cult of Personality shouldn't surprise us. The United States is today an Oligarchy with Cults of Personality at the core of a Religion of Obedience. Americans idolize actors, sports stars and select billionaires (currently a little out of favor with the Wall Street debacle). The growth in actors (Franken, Reagan, Schwarzenegger), sports stars (less common, but Bunning comes to mind), and billionaires (Bloomberg, Frist, Whitman, Fiorina) is a symptom of the relation between power, money and fame.

ll of this obliterates the need of voters, the public, to examine, reflect, think — which is precisely what is desired by those in power. We are expected to obey, and more than any other industrial democracy, we Americans do.

This is further reflected in so-called institutions of higher learning, most notably Harvard, where we are expected to accept so and so's diktats for absolutely no other reason than the fact that he or she is at Harvard or Yale or Stanford. Conservatives are not upset so much by the mindless obedience to academic authority as they are to what they perceive (mistakenly) as the liberal leaning of that authority.

Edward Said captured this all beautifully with his essay on the countervailing role of the true intellectual (Chomsky, Baldwin, de Beauvoir, Galbraith, Malcolm X and, I will add, Greenwald) — Representations of the Intellectual.

Why is the problem so severe in the US (and to a lesser extent Britain)? The US is in an essentially defensive posture today. It has seen its peak, its best of times. Those benefiting from the best of times now seek primarily to defend against decline. It's an old story.

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