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<nettime> Obama and the dawn of ...
CJ Hopkins on Sat, 15 Nov 2008 21:21:54 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Obama and the dawn of ...

This is my first contribution to the list, to which I've subscribed for 
some time, so, first, thank you all, and hello from Berlin.

I wonder if it might be useful to try to clarify the frame(s) through 
which this event is being perceived. Hope versus Cynicism? What I've 
read from the list in recent days reaffirms my sense that a more 
fundamental difference, one based on incompatible ontological-political 
assumptions, divides us into two broad groups, namely, those who 
perceive (real) Democracy at work, and those who perceive a Simulation 
of Democracy at work. This division is admittedly rather simplistic, and 
only one of many lenses through which the event can be viewed, but 
perhaps it will be useful nonetheless. Here goes.

One the one hand, there are those who perceive and think within the 
terms of (real) Democracy, who cannot understand why any Left-leaning 
person would be uninspired by the Democrats' victory. Clearly, the 
Republican agenda was rejected, and now we have at least a chance to 
make some real improvements, reforms, adjustments in US foreign and 
domestic policy, however slowly and incrementally. So why would any 
Left-leaning person want to pee in the punchbowl? This question makes 
perfect sense, IF one accepts (US-style) representative democracy as the 
contextual playing field, and is invested in gaining and holding ground 
upon this field. In these terms, enthusiasm, celebration, and optimism 
is entirely understandable.

And then there are those who perceive only a Simulation of Democracy at 
work, and cannot understand how the the former group could possibly buy 
into the game. Their views are based on the premise that it is the 
playing field, the system itself (I do not know what to call it ... 
empire? capitalism?) which needs to be changed, not the names or party 
affiliations of those in power. Left and Right no longer really enter 
into the analysis, except as terms offered by the Simulation to its 
participants/consumers. For this group, the Democrats' victory changes 
nothing, or very little. Empire remains empire. It simply wears a 
different, less hostile face for a while. This perspective also makes 
perfect sense, IF one believes that representative democracy, as 
practiced in the US, is but a self-protective adaptation ritual 
performed by the system in order to ensure its survival by absorbing and 
sublimating potentially radical opposition, especially valuable in 
moments of systemic crisis.

My point here is not to argue one side or the other (clearly, I fall 
into the second category). Rather, it is to suggest that these two 
fundamentally incompatible perspectives exist, and that when we speak 
from one or the other, without clarifying our basic assumptions, we 
often frustrate those in the other group. One perceives ill-will, or 
naivite, when, in essence, we are simply operating based on radically 
different beliefs and assumptions, and thus posing entirely different 

Take the terms themselves, for example. Center? Left and Right? Of what?

CJ Hopkins

>  I also have been rather surprised. I think all of those of us in the
> US who lean left _at all_ are aware that Obama is more of a centrist,
> but compared to the utterly corrupt and incompetent horror we've been
> stuck with, I think some enthusiasm is justified.
> And I also would like to know what's behind the ill-will as well,
> because if nothing else, we've at least finally elected a person of
> color, which thrills me almost beyond words.
> So what gives? Do you really think we're all going to immediately just
> sit back and stop paying attention? Maybe you do, but if that troubles
> you, then (as I've said before on this list) stop bitching about it
> and do something, and inspire others by writing about that instead.

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