right here, right now

Michael Ventura is still the best working writer in America. Period.

Obama’s presidency appeals to our cinema-oriented sense of story: An exceptionally extraordinary man comes out of nowhere and takes power in a dangerously extraordinary time. That cinematic aura is part of what got him elected. He is that man, and this is that time, but we’d best remember that this ain’t no movie. We need to be a citizenry, not an audience.

We wanted change? We’ve already gotten more change than anyone sufficiently comprehends. Consider 2008 as it becomes 2009. Barack Obama is an urbane Northern black man elected with roughly the same white votes as Bill Clinton, a charming Southern white man … at the very moment right-wing Republicans quasi-socialized U.S. housing, insurance, and banking … just three months after Russia successfully invaded a U.S. ally (Georgia) while suffering no consequences. Those events together constitute a shattering of economic, geopolitical, and social paradigms unique in history. Add the rising might of China, India, and Brazil; the maturation of the European Union (countries that have bloodied one another for centuries acting peacefully in concert); the empowerment of Western women; and the social acceptance, throughout the West, of homosexuality and endless varieties of gender-bending. Throw in the deadly wild card of stateless entities effectively employing violence for political effect the world over. Spike all that with the connectivity of the Internet, the inexorability of climate change, and the euro now an effective competitor with the dollar. Stir it all into the same chili pot, and you have a world no one wanted and few imagined, a world surreal yet unavoidably real, brave or not, that every day races ahead of institutions created to govern a tamer world that is no more.

That is what President Obama faces. A world rearranged, a world in drastic transformation, a world in which no one can be certain of the meaning, force, or value of any of its ferociously contesting elements. Humanity, as a species, is shaken to its core. In such a crisis, “optimism” and “pessimism” are equally vacuous poses. In such a world, “negative” and “positive” are merely two sides of an eight-sided box. In such a world, no one knows what to do, and everyone must try – try our best for our own good no less than for the good of our neighbors, remembering, as Jesus most specifically taught, that even our enemy is our neighbor. The one inescapable fact, deniable by no one, is that we are all in this together. The other inescapable fact, equally undeniable, is that we’re each in this alone. Upon the paradox of these clashing facts – clashing yet blending, too – does our fate depend, all and every one of us.

One Response to “right here, right now”

  1.   Bruce
    January 28th, 2009 | 8:14 am

    I have to agree, especially after the nomination of the Monsanto tool for sec. of Agriculture, that the good stuff from the Obama administration (as things look right now) will come from the inspiration and sense of hope and stuff that seems to have infused many americans, and not actually from what he does himself.

    (I mean, running a status quo administration in a reasonably competent manner will help, but, you know, not change anything, really.)

    OTOH I believe that this is where change has to come from anyway, the grass roots, in order to affect the emergent behavior that is the govt. and the other control systems.