Today many of us have been swept by the Obama mania – Obamania – for good reason. Barack Obama is the first African-American President after a long sad history of slavery and racial and class inequality.
Some have celebrated his presidency as a victory for non-racialism, others, especially from the African continent, feel represented by the Kenyan descendant in the highest and most prestigious office.
In the midst of this euphoria, is a crisis of expectations amongst many. I call it a crisis because I do not believe that, apart from the charismatic speeches, the ground breaking victory, Obama holds a magic wand that can be waved to instantly end the world’s wars, eradicate poverty and make the world one of equal opportunities for all.
He takes over the reins when the world is at the peak of insanity, from the global financial crisis, to the Middle-East crisis, and the poverty that gnaws at the heart of the African continent.
I therefore would like to risk an argument that our world full of misery is the way it is today, not because we have lacked benevolent leaders, leaders with a good-will to end the poverty and suffering.
I believe the world is the way it is today because of the system in place, created to do just that; perpetuate that inequality, forever subordinating those who have been ‘othered’ to remain just that, the ‘other’ poor, desperate, marginalized part of our world. A system that sucks the oil from the ground where these ‘others’ live, yet their children cannot complete school.
It is the reality of that system that needs unpacking and understanding, if we are to locate Obama’s victory and delivery in its proper context in an endeavour to shape an alternative way of politics.
The system as represented by big financial corporations and powerful governments is going to take more than just Obama’s magic wand to transform it.
Obama has a mammoth task of changing the way America has been doing politics, a bigger task to be part of the change we wish for in undoing the damage done to our livelihoods by the Washington Consensus.
If the clarion call is “yes we can do away with global capitalism”, then “Yes We Can”, We Should.
My thesis being that it is the vicious well oiled system Obama has to wade through that will matter more than his most inspiring open proclamations, giving us hope. Hope is food for the soul, but our stomachs need filling too.
Certainly in moments of despair we need hope, let us relish the moment, to its fullest. We are a people who have been bludgeoned so hard by a plethora of never ending woes, that we see hope in any simple opportunity that presents itself before us; understandably so, for us on the African continent.
Challenges for Obama are many; the Change citizens yearn for is a radical departure from militaristic foreign policy interventions, as witnessed in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. Shoes will continue to be thrown in protest.
Expectations are on for the fresh face at the White House to deliver not just change but a radical alternative to the status quo. Sadly Obama takes power in a world where black does not necessarily mean black and vice versa. That is where our own thinking needs correcting.
The polarization in our world today goes beyond colour and to a certain extent, beyond ideology. That is why some are truly scandalized when members of the Congregational Black Caucus vote for a pro-Israel resolution that makes a blanket condemnation of Hamas. Those are the choices that come with democracy.
The politics will not be cut out just like that, meaning that our expectations on what Obama can deliver to the people of this world must be within the limitations of the context he is going to be operating under.
The back-ground given shows that Obama has work on his hands, not just for the American voters who put him where he is today, but the billions of us out here who survive on less than a dollar per day, who die of malaria each year, those affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic and many who suffer under the yoke of undemocratic regimes.
However, the onus on us citizens of the world is to build into what Obama has so far achieved, from a pragmatic standpoint in which we ask ourselves, what best can we get out of Obama’s Presidency? That way there is a sound footing on the basis upon which will judge whether he has failed us, or measure his success in delivering for us.
In shaping alternative’s to the Status Quo in Washington, we need sober minds that can separate the trees from the forest.