The opinion community has embraced Obama in a brotherly hug, a lover’s arms, a worshipers supplication, an enemy’s arm’s length grip and in a madman’s clutching. The millions of words swirling in a maelstrom, running hot and cold, all true and all false: Obama, champion of the common man. Obama, the elite’s new face. Obama, the hoped for. Obama, the unknown.
He is absolutely the new face of elite power: American power and beyond American power. It could be no other way. No one can get to the medium and upper reaches of global power and not be accepted by and acceptable to the world’s elite. While not monotonal, the elite does tend, like any interest group, to common harmonies.
It is not difficult to know the goals of the world’s most powerful and influential people: they wish to remain powerful and in control of their world (which in this case is The World). What doesn’t help them in these pursuits is either seen as a danger or as of no interest. A major difference between the elite and the rest of humanity is that they are able to actually do what they imagine. Mr. Obama is now a member.
The rest of the world’s people imagine more with hope than with action, hope ranging from studied possibility to desperation (thus, the power of ‘hope’ as a political word). We want to continue the life we have and to have a little more. Obama knows that world well. This is the great appeal of Mr. Obama, a man with the melodies of the multitudes supposedly still in his ear; now one of the leaders with the apparent power to write the music, a ‘stealth’ leader carrying the cacophony of the crowd.
But it is inconceivable that the major planned movements of humanity will not originate in the desires, expectations and adaptations of the elites. If we understand this reality, then we can find some voice even when we have none. If we understand nothing else, we must know that Obama is no longer of the many, but he will remember for a time the power of the many when they act in unison.
Much of the power of the multitude is in the unplanned movements of events and the degree to which the elite require the ordinary folk to support them in uncertainty. It is in this that Obama will, to some extent, have to chose sides: Will he use his depth of understanding to include the voices of the people in the adaptations of the elite or will he use that understanding to defeat those voices? To be a great leader is ultimately not in answering the call of the multitude, but in getting the elite to realize the importance of including some of the needs of the multitude in the elite’s expectations.
If we ask the right questions, we will get the right answers. Not, will Obama be co-opted by power? But, are people commonly co-opted by power? Not, will Obama remember his roots even in the face of great pressure? But, do people generally remember the experiences that form them? Not, will Obama act with disregard for others to support his personal and family self-interest? But…? You get the idea.
I believe that the ball in now in our court. (Please excuse the shift of metaphor; I could have said that we have counted out the ‘rest’ of the last 8 years and we have now been cued to our next part in the score.) When I sort through the answers to the above questions a most likely image forms: A new president with a willingness to listen to well presented argument and responsive to pressure from all sources. The most powerful and forming sources will be from the elites that have vetted him and found him acceptable, but he will not forget that when he was of the multitude he could get things done. The last administration had no such understanding and thus the depth of their failure in all things, except the flagrant and obvious support of the elite; like the obvious and embarrassing sycophancy of a fool.
The multitude never has an agenda and so is easily ignored, and difficult to please. This is the moment when an agenda is desperately needed. The much maligned intellectual community must listen to each other and get serious. We cannot complain that “the administration” doesn’t do the right thing unless, first we, and then, they know what the right thing is. The president and his advisors are not there to do the right thing, but to figure out the details of doing the right thing they are told to do.
As I wrote in a different and more passionate context: “(W)e need the counselors of caution to be resurgent by a force of will, driven from a desire to survive, driven to rise up from the backwaters, from the insane asylums, from the dusty library stacks and in an increasingly harmonious voice singing out, ‘enough is enough’ — the classic tautology of unacceptable surplus — singing out with the narcotic voice of the Sirens, ‘we are changing ourselves to death; we are growing the world to death; we cannot kill off the world and remain ourselves.'”
I think that there is some reasonable chance that an Obama administration will listen to the multitude for a time, even as it does the bidding of the elite. Simple randomness would suggest that every now and again someone will come to power who can realize, if only momentarily, the greater press of global biophysical reality. If enough of us are loud enough, are consistent enough and in tune enough, then there is a chance that this new administration will respond…for a time.
I heard a ‘screaming lobster’ metaphor the other day, but by then it is too late.