Posted by razzbuffnik on June 4th, 2008
Apologies in advance to all those people out there who are heartily sick of that overly long dog and pony show that is going on in the States at the moment.
I usually don’t like expressing political opinions, because it’s like the kiss of death to a politician, if I like them. For years, I voted against John Howard and the little creep kept on getting voted back in by the majority of the electorate. I also voted “yes” in the referendum as to whether or not Australia should become a republic, when the majority of Australians voted in favour of the monarchy. In short, I’m out of step with the majority of Australian opinion.
This fact was driven home to me one time when I was arguing with a neighbour, about something that I can’t even remember now, and she said something that I thought was really stupid. In my normally non-confrontational, measured, thoughtful and diplomatic way (not), I blurted out to her, “you’re so stupid, I bet you voted against the republic and you voted for John Howard”.
To which she retorted as quick as a whip, “of course I did!”
I then remarked that she was the only person I knew, who would admit publicly that she did.
Her response was, “I don’t know anyone who didn’t vote that way”.
That’s when it hit me how polarised the society I live in is. My neighbour lived in a world that was pro-monarchy, and right wing economic rationalism. Whereas I inhabit a world that is populated with pro-republic left-leaning liberals.
I must be careful what I use the word “liberal” here in Australia because the “Liberal Party” is the name of the political party here in Australia that more closely resembles the Tory party in England and the Republican Party in the USA. Let me state, right here and now, I am not, and never will be a supporter of the Liberal party, here in Australia.
I’ve been interested in Barack Obama for some time now, and to be honest I didn’t think he had a hope a hope in hell of winning the Democratic party nomination. I lost interest in Hillary Clinton, when I read this very interesting blog entry about her business interests and connections.
I think it’s very ironic that the Democratic party, that used to be pro-slavery, has nominated the first African American to run for the American presidency. Personally, I couldn’t give a damn about Obama’s skin colour (after all, I used to have recurring dreams as a small child of being the first black Pope. But that’s a story for another time). What does interest me about him is his upbringing and the fact that he spent some time at school in Indonesia.
I think that Obama’s Indonesian connection is very important to America’s future for two reasons.
The first reason is because Indonesia has the world’s largest population of Moslems. The Islam as practised by the Indonesians is much more moderate than that of the Saudi Wahhabis that the western media like to portray as the face of Islam. I think it is extremely important for not only America, but the rest of the world, that America engages with this more moderate form of Islam instead of using Moslems as a bogeyman to scare their population into line.
The second reason why I think Obama’s Indonesian upbringing is important to America, is because I’m fairly certain that he’d be familiar with the Indonesian notion of consensus (mufacat). Traditionally, Indonesians have always tried to find a middle ground, and therefore compromise, rather than polarising opinion. The polarisation of the American political scene (just like here in Australia) is so counterproductive.
I think the world needs to find another way, other than, “if yer ain’t with us, then yer agin us”. Such false logic is the tool of demagogues.
The trouble with a polarised society, is that neither camp knows or is interested in what the other camp is doing. Each side has its own press, complete with its own propagandists, preachers and demagogues. There just doesn’t seem to be a crossover of ideas, which leads to a hardening and intransigence of opinion. It would seem that the world has forgotten about Socratic dialogue, and how to find out about the truth by talking to each other and testing each other’s ideas in a civilised fashion.
People with a polarised mindset, have a very difficult time in exchanging ideas. Bailed up behind a wall of dogma, such people aren’t open to reason or persuasion. I often like to quote Carl von Clausewitz from his book, “On War” that, “war is merely the continuation of politics by other means”.
I’ve always taken that to mean that war is the natural outcome of the failure of diplomacy.
When people don’t respond to words and negotiation, what’s left but force?
I just have a gut feeling that Obama is a man who tries to find what people have in common rather than use their differences as a wedge.
The American philosopher William James (1842 – 1910) once said, ” real culture lives by sympathies and admirations, not by dislikes and distains – under all misleading wrappings it pounces unerringly upon the human core”.
But who cares about my opinion anyway? I won’t be voting in that election and if I did, it would be the kiss of death to Mr Obama’s presidential aspirations.