06 November 2008

the enduring power of our ideals

So the question now on everybody's mind is what exactly are we going to complain about now?

I had an interesting conversation with the Very Understanding Girlfriend last night, about how I realised just how negative I have become. If I look back over the last eighteen months I notice that an awful lot of my blog posts are complaining about political or corporate skulduggery. It seems to have been a perennial action/reaction cycle, I get angry or upset about something I read/see/hear and blog as a form of therapy, reducing my ire and feelings of helplessness by writing and highlighting.

If I look at my bookshelf there is an incredible amount of space devoted to everything that has been wrong about the Bush presidency (If I arranged my books by subject the would all end up under W - war in Iraq, check; war on terror, check; war on science, check; war on liberty and privacy; check, and on and on the bookshelf would go) and neo-capitalism. My choice of books on flights and trains (Greg Palast, Mark Thomas, Naomi Klein etc) tends to leave me with my heckles raised and my stomach in knots, and I've had to stop reading late at night lest my anger encaffinate me and lead to 3am bouts of wrathful insomnia.

The Very Understanding Girlfriend noted this tendency in herself, and made a conscious effort to add more positive material to her news sourcing (such as the ever optimistic Yes! magazine, promoting sustainability and justice by highlighting things that are working and making a difference, not just focusing on the problems without suggesting solutions). But alas, weighed down as I am by subscriptions to the Nation and Mother Jones, despair is the feeding trough of my smugness.

I know that the election of Obama isn't going to change things dramatically, but after eight years of overwhelming depression on a global level at the state of world affairs and the feeling of general helplessness in the face of naked greed and freebooting by those in corporate and political power, it feels good to see such a vocal rejection of self-centred and selfish Hayekian individualism and worship of the unfettered free-market.

In 1997 I returned from a trip to Sweden and landed in the UK the day after Labour's historic victory and remember seeing a newspaper headline that said something along the lines of 'Hello world, Britain is back!", celebrating an end to 18 years of Tory isolationism and the prospect of rejoining the global community as a partner, not an aggressor. Obama's win heralds just such a signal in the minds of the global community, and already this morning I saw Obama posters going up in Dublin coffee shops, and as street art spontaneously appearing on the sidewalks of Dublin (as seen above on Camden Street). This is a scene that is being repeated across the world, the global community is celebrating what they hope is the end of America's imperial adventures and rampant and aggressive expansionism, and look forward to a time of cooperation, communication and positive development.

Obama's win won't directly affect the lives of everyone who celebrates it, but what it does do is provide a catalyst for change in their own minds, a signal that the world is not insane and they should no longer feel isolated and alienated for believing that things should be different, for believing in compassion, justice and dignity and rejecting unfettered greed.

But as I said at the start of this post, if all is right with the world what then will I write about? Apple product reviews?

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