In this week of January, 2009, Barack Obama calmly waited to take his solemn oath as President of the United States.
He took office on the essential strength of his three mantras that he spelt out endlessly in his 2008 election campaign.
- YES, WE CAN,
- UNITED States of America (not Republican/Democrat, Black/ White, Rich/Poor)
Eight Years later, the three public mantras in the USA have become for the majority:
- No, We Can’t
- Divided States of America
- Hopelessness with the election of the new President
These eight years confirmed that we cannot replace substance with style. Mr Obama always valued continuity of the way things are rather than real change. He is a true conservative. His big financial backers knew that when they met with him, interviewed him and selected him. Aiming to appeal to everybody, Obama’s political treatise, The Audacity of Hope, reveals his lack of audacity. His backers knew that. Corporate capitalism would be safe in his hands.
He seems to have lived under the influence of one primary unresolved tendency – namely the desire to please as many US institutions and citizns as possible. A something for everybody approach.
As the eight years went by, the people of the USA yearned increasingly for a leader with audacity. They elected Donald Trump who promotes the relentless audacity of blame of the other(s).
The Obsession with Appearance
A man of style, Obama lacked substance or, to be kind, revealed very little.
As elsewhere in the West, the USA is obsessed with youth, the handsome, the well-built, the happy family, the articulate speaker, the clean and scandal free.
Obama was also black. He ticked all the boxes. He even had a father who converted to become a Muslim. We were led to believe that the USA is a progressive country with the liberal-minded as the majority of people.
The majority of the USA electorate pinned their hopes onto their young, handsome and articulate President.
His desire to please, to be liked and approved of, influenced numerous policies, foreign and domestic. With this tendency, he projected unity where there was conflict, shared values where there was division, togetherness where there was abuse of power, mutually shared interest where there was brutal self-interest. He does not seem to understand the psychology of conflict resolution, the formation of motives and the harsh reality of the causes of suffering. His desire to please powerful forces and institutions led to even more suffering. His occasional concerns and criticisms of exploitation, corruption and violence were lost in his rhetoric. Ask Muslims worldwide. He came to be known as Obomber. Ask Black Lives Matter. Ask the ignored.
He blinded himself to a nation in a crisis – fragmented, unhappy and a democray with little to offer. Millions live in the most desperate of circumstances. Obama needed the approval of his powerful supporters. He kept telling Americans they live in the greatest country in the world.
He pleased the military, the CIA, corporations, the bankers, Wall Street, the mining industry and only had well-constructed, thoughtful speeches left for the masses, full of creative rhetoric, empathetic concerns and uplifting moments, such as Amazing Grace after the Charleston massacre. He showed the finest style since President John F. Kennedy in the early 1960s.
In the past year, the US spin doctors and Democratic propaganda machinery went into overdrive to promote our Great Western Leader heading into retirement from the White House. We have seen him on TV chat shows, listened to snippets of the best of his speeches, seen some of the best of the eight million photographs of him, the heart-warming documentaries on his life, his loving family, his two days in the Alaskan wilderness, eating in cafes, chatting with children and the endless reference to the 23 million fortunate citizens out of 302 million who now have affordable health care and the million more per year who have a job – regardless of the soul-destroying job and the pittance of pay for many. Mr. Obama has an impeccable style and a sharp eye for personal attention. He wants to leave a legacy. His desire for approval continues.
The Foreign and Domestic Policy
Did his eight years as President mark any substantial change? After he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, he signed the papers to authorise bombing attacks on 14 Arab/ Muslim nations. In 2016 alone, USA dropped more than 26, 172 bombs on seven Muslim countries. He ordered 383 drone attacks upon villages in northern Pakistan, plus drone attacks on six other Muslim countries, compared to 52 strikes ordered by George Bush. Obama promised during his election campaign he would bring the US army home from Afghanistan. He increased the number of soldiers in Afghanistan by 50% before a major withdrawal. He kept in use Guantanamo Bay. US has more than 800 Army bases around the world and they continue to grow. In the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change conference, President Obama arrived in Paris towards the end with nothing to offer. The USA carried on its policies of pollution until some modest changes were agreed upon in Copenhagen. He allowed widespread NSA surveillance of governments and influential citizens worldwide. Ask German chancellor, Mrs. Angela Merkel. NSA bugged her telephone. Ask the Pope when NSA bugged his Vatican election. Ask the UN headquarters in New York.
On the domestic front, he squeezed the shrunken pockets of the tax payers, both middle classes and working poor when he sanctioned the pay-out between $700 billion and $3000 billion to the greedy, corrupt bankers. The bankers plunged millions into debt and brought suffering to countless numbers who lost their homes. Obama had a choice. He could have let the big banks and their corrupt practices go to the wall. He could have used the $billions to set up small banks around the country with close co-operation between local banks and local citizens to develop a wise economy. He lacked the audacity. He ignored the $billions of corporate tax avoidance. US national debt nearly $20 trillion amounts to $166,000 for every tax paying citizen.
Despite becoming President with a significant Democratic majority in the Senate in his first period in office, his tendency to want to please everybody blocked his capacity for bold, fearless implementation of a new approach to foreign and domestic policy. Poverty, pollution, violence, obesity and racism blights the soul of America. He did little for the poor regardless of skin colour. He deported more than 2.5 million illegal immigrants. Around one in every 110 people in the US are currently in prison. One in every 50 people are on parole or probation. The situation in the USA gets worse and worse and worse. There are more gun murders on Christmas Day in the USA than in a Western European country in the entire year.
The homeless, the poor, the marginalised struggle to survive while the middle classes struggle to make ends meet. Meanwhile, the Liberal elites wine and dine with the super-rich, with myth-making Hollywood and courted the influential media. The politicians neglected compassion and replaced it with approval seeking from the super-privileged. The super-privileged and the super-famous also want to be liked and approved of by the politicians.
The Result of the Election
The Shadow of the US electorate has landed.
The youthful President, handsome, well-built, with a modest family, the articulate speaker, clean and scandal free period has been replaced.
The Light has gone. The Shadow has replaced the light in the duality of light and dark.
The new President is old, ugly, fat, from a power-hungry family, a speaker with a vocabulary of a 10-year-old and scandal ridden.
We have endured style without substance.
From January 20, 2017, we have to endure neither style nor the substance that serves the welfare of people, animals and the Earth.
We would surely be happy to have an old, fat, ugly leader with substantial policies to implement wise changes for a caring and sustainable world.
The Neo-Liberals and the Neo-Cons have failed. They dreamt up the new world order and it became a nightmare. One unholy mess.
Protest against neoliberal and neoconservative politics must accompany development of alternatives. There are plenty of fine initiatives for creative change and for community building. There are projects to support and protect life on Earth. There are important programmes taking place – inspiring, affirming and progressive.
Ethics, spirituality, modesty of lifestyle, service to people, animals and the environment matter. Keep your eyes and ears open for grass roots movement and the new kinds of politics.
Find out about them. Act. Cut your time down on social media and use the time in the real world.
Forget self-compassion. Show Audacity for Compassion. Don’t be dependent on the approval of others.
Right action has no shadow.