Thursday, November 13, 2008

THE AUDACITY OF HOPE ?

Barack Obama has arrived. Welcome to the jungle, Obama.
Let the fun and games begin !
I am sure every third blog here has a post on Barack Obama. There’s nothing new to write really. But the truth is, despite a sub-conscious vow to not give this hoopla a stamp on my acknowledgement, this crazy Obama-fever that’s gripped us is beginning to ruffle my feathers a bit. I am now compelled to share my views on this whole gig, from the vantage-point of an urban Indian.

Actually, what I want to know is why is India working itself into a frenzy celebrating his victory? Have you glanced at the newspapers recently? “Obama for change” , Obama for hope”, “ It’s a great day, a new dawn, not just in America, but in the world also “. Belch….

I hear he has been compared to Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi ! This a going a tad overboard….isn’t it a wee bit premature too? Obama stands for change, but why are we going gaga over him for that? Nothing is going to change for us. Uncle Sam will still be, well, just that. True, he will go down is history as the first black president of United States of America. His dramatic campaign and astounding victory has seized the imagination not only of American voters but of the whole world. But then, I feel we overestimate the US government, and underestimate the average American. Don’t we?

Its fantastic that a country that enslaved blacks for centuries, where blacks weren’t allowed to even vote till 1964, should now elect a black president! It’s a triumph for Obama, all Americans and the idea of America. But what has it got to do with us?

Let’s try and analyze this election as a layman. One candidate promises too much while the other has delivered too little. So, neither candidate is quite convincing. Senator Obama is charismatic but alarmingly vague while his challenger is politically sound but unnecessarily peevish. Senator McCain has fought a sometimes mean-spirited campaign. Mr. McCain is by far the sounder candidate. He is a tax cutter, a believer in small government, a zealot for free trade. He may have made something of a fool of himself with his grandstanding during the banking crisis, but he was not alone in that (though Mr. Obama wisely kept his counsel).

If the Democrat nominee were a white man with exactly the same CV as Mr. Obama, the result of the election would most likely be a landslide for whomever the Republicans nominated, in spite of the Bush legacy. I believe the term used by clinical psychologists for the adulation heaped upon Mr. Obama is “overcompensation reaction,” and is in some way an effort to make up for the shame over nearly 400 years of white over the brutal institution of slavery.

Besides, who was Obama’s opponent, anyway? I don’t see what the big surprise is if we consider this aspect. I mean, look at McCain. A seventy plus frumpy, blue-blooded, stiff republican with both legs in the grave. After an eight year republican reign its not surprising that democrats have won the elections. Isn’t that what always happens in US politics? What’s new? After a lame-duck president ( I am referring to Bush ) whose government policies have only disgraced the nation and brought an uproar, its only natural that someone as unconventional as Barack Obama would steal the voters’ hearts.

There can be no doubt that it is Obama who has sprinkled the campaign with stardust. The prospect of America having its first black president has energized millions - not just ethnic minorities but also the young and those who have never voted. If running a text-book campaign was the primary qualification for the office, Mr. Obama would
be a shoo-in. He has scarcely put a foot wrong throughout this seemingly interminable contest. His life-story, his family, his presence, his eloquence all make him the perfect 21st-century candidate. He has been in the right place at the right time.

Yes, his uncanny win has inspired many a “down-trodden” all over. His victory has given wings to many dreams. A black man with a weird name ( it rhymes with “ Osama”, for Chris sake! ), and a Muslim background is now the most powerful man in the world. Until now, its all fine, but why is he being painted hero to all colored creeds, dalits and generally the less bestowed in India by the media? Somewhere I read “ the dalits of India see Obama as the symbol of black power”. Whaaat??

And why are our political leaders jumping and clapping? What are the expectations? How is he different from any other guy who might have won the presidency of USA,as far as India is concerned? It would be insanely foolish to expect Barack Obama to make all right with the world. Mostly people in the U.S. and the entire world will have to accept a set of compromises that, on balance, might make the world better. Barack Obama has come this far on a spell of rhetoric and charisma. Now he must undertake a responsibility for which those qualities will not necessarily qualify him. Mr. Obama has so far displayed a mixture of immaturity and naivety on questions on Foreign affairs and International security.

Barack Obama while studying at Harvard

 On a human level, I love Obama and all that he is made to stand for. Firstly, he hasan impressive appearance and charismatic style. I admire his personal strength and perseverance. His mixed-genes and unconventional past give him the air of a lovable renegade. Secondly, I’ve read many “50 facts you didn’t know about Obama” articles. Yes, his favorite movie is Casablanca, yes he has experimented with marijuana in college. Yes, he’s a family man who once left a bachelor’s party when the stripper arrived. All very cute. But, But. Obama has only just won the election. Thanks to an interesting background and a very smart campaign committee. He has yet to do anything for the world, till now he’s only worked hard on himself.
Let’s take a look at his predicted Foreign policy, shall we? For the last eight years, US agenda has been very cut-and dried. Military oriented. George Bush has made as ass of himself in Iraq and Afghanistan. Arrogant, greedy, bullying, destroying and now failing America desperately tries to reinvent itself as a liberal; right on, 'look we even have a black President' beacon for multiculturalism and democracy. Not a good legacy for the new president. We expect Obama to want to just wipe-out this nasty aspect of their foreign history. Obama administration has been evasive in their revelations. What we do know of his policies is not encouraging - higher taxes, protectionism, a bigger role for the state, particularly in health-care. More “made in USA” troubles.
For those who believe that the United States' greatest strength - from which the whole world benefits - is the its boisterous free market economy, Mr. Obama presents a worrying prospect. Their economic stronghold is a mess and getting messier as we speak. Obama has spoken out against outsourcing and in favor of more rigorous international measures to combat climate change. US has slumped into the worst recession since 1929, and US unemployment is rapidly rising. The credit crunch has already made it difficult to finance trade. Obama has said in protectionist overtones that he would offer financial incentives to create jobs in the United States and has spoken out against outsourcing and in favor of more rigorous international measures to combat climate change. It should start making us nervous soon that south east Asia's relatively healthy economies will catch a dose of "American flu" earlier than we expect. What were you doing when your economy was receding, creating a bubble in the world economy pool? Now the whole world suffers.

There is also dismay over the idea Obama has floated of sending a third-party mediator to the disputed region of Kashmir. His pronouncements on India and Pakistan, which were music to the ears of people in India in the initial months of the campaign, became jarring during its closing days. The crucial issue in the region is the United States’ continuing involvement in Afghanistan and, in that context, its relationship with Pakistan.


In the initial months of his campaign he’d supported the initiatives taken by the Bush administration in relation to India and was critical of Pakistan's inadequate co-operation with the US in the war against Al Qaeda . He also criticized the Bush Administration for giving weapons to Pakistan, which it could use only against India and not against the Al Qaeda, under the pretext of strengthening its counter-terrorism capability. This got our political pundits dancing, but have they noticed that he has hardly acknowledged the Indo-Pakistan issues??Maybe Obama will actively seek to improve India-Pakistan relations so that they become predictable. Maybe not. His inclination to bring in Clinton as special envoy seems like he wants someone to pacify Delhi, while he focuses on Afghanistan. Obama is not naive enough to conclude that his route to Afghan settlement lies through the treacherous minefields of the 60-year-old Kashmir dispute.

Obama would most likely favor the retention of a military presence in Afghanistan under a NATO banner. He has repeatedly stated that not enough attention has been paid to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr Obama is also committed to incorporating Pakistan in a solution that deals with its Taliban. Pakistan has always been the pad on which USA has maintained its presence in the Indian-subcontinent. Paki’s have been obliging USA, while we’ve sat fuming. That isn’t going to change any time soon.



Obama and his foreign policy advisers will almost certainly emphasize a renewal of the non-proliferation agenda. Although the exact shape and scope of their policies is uncertain, it would likely involve a revival of CTBT. Another continuing bone of contention. A number of radical changes can be expected from an Obama foreign policy, some of which will directly affect India in a bad way.


Aides have also revealed that he intends to renew the commitment to hunting down Osama bin Laden. I’d personally like to see a withdrawal of U.S. military and shutdown of U.S. military bases throughout Europe and much of the world.


Diplomatic predicaments can at times be almost laughable. Man Mohan Singh may be patting himself on the back for the so-called “improved-relations” with USA under the Bush regime, what with Condoleezza Rice visiting India, and signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal. But they have only been whispering sweet-nothings into your ears, Man Mohan. Indian officials were scurrying around like headless chickens because 120 anxious hours had passed and United States president-elect Barack Obama had not yet put a phone call through to Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh - as he has done to at least nine other heads of state. Indians began to sound just like a long-suffering South Asian mother nagging her son abroad: Why haven't you called?

We talk down to the USA band-wagon. Why is our Government so anxious to climb on it? Why are we so taken by every new Tom on the US political scene? Obama can sing all he wants about peace in his “glorious” acceptance speech, but the truth is, USA is only a big-bully. It only took one attack at the world trade centre, and they’ve demolished two entire nations to dust shamelessly, and they tell us to “dialogue” with pakis on the Kashmir trouble?

Man Mohan pull your socks up, man.

Lastly, instead of getting dazzled by the starry victory of Barack Obama, and jumping and cheering for him like complete idiots, we need to sit and think on it. Just as the US has its issues with race, India has its with caste. People here are already beginning to talk of a Dalit becoming prime minister as the equivalent of an African-American becoming president of the US. Such comparisons miss one significant difference: Barack Obama became the 44th president of the US not by playing his race card, but by presenting himself as a candidate acceptable to all.That hasn’t happened so far in India, where leaders from a particular caste are more than happy to leverage this fact if it means an electoral victory. President-elect Obama’s campaign was inclusive. The election campaigns of most Indian leaders belonging to the so-called backward classes tend to be divisive. That’s no different from the politics of leaders from the mainstream parties, but that is a different issue altogether.

If we adore “change” so much and if Obama’s win brings so much “hope”, then why not do some changing in our ailing nation?
We need to find our own Obama.

Ps : I wish Atal Bihari Vajpayee was 30 years younger.

23 comments:

  1. terrific insight on the US general elections. it is obvious that while you've accepted obama as president of usa but you've your own objections that are valid to quite an extent. you said you couldn't understand why India rejoiced the victory of Obama.It is because he's a welcome change from bush. yes, as you've said any democratic nominee would have won given 8 years of bush's governance(he's lost this election on humanitarian(iraq war) grounds and economy crisis). but a resounding victory such as this re-instantiates faith in hope of better governance. yes, you've said "Somewhere I read “ the dalits of India see Obama as the symbol of black power”. Whaaat?" That's part of current maniac-media in India reporting. India is fed up of stereo-typical politicians and hence a war cry in hope of better leaders and hence comparisons to contemporary elections! Having said that, Obama has no business with kashmir and his interest in kashmir is rubbish. He should rather concentrate on his country's economy crisis.His victory is partly due to weak opposition as well and a ridiculous far-below convincing sarah palin's entry against a formidable joe biden has only weakened mccain's candidature. It is of no doubt that US will use pakistan to check India at all fronts. India, at least now, should drop the idea of joining the US bandwagon. After all the economic boom, why the crazy idea of US-friendship? I always thought Vajpayee was the right man in the wrong party and having said that, i don't think Congress is the right party as well! As far as searching our own obama, we'd one in the form of Rajiv Gandhi. He promised great future before succumbing to extremist groups and thereby permitting laying the foundation stone for a Ram temple near babri masjid and then his downfall!

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  2. @ dolphin

    hi ! thanks for reading this post. it long, but its precise, too. I'm very glad you've taken the time to read it carefully and I appriciate your well-toned comment.
    but, tell me. how is Obama a welcome change after Bush? If anything, he is just spelling trouble for us. we have all heard his implications, they paint a grim picture. history knows we've always had better relations with a republican USA government, compared to a democratic one. In fact, political pudits claim it's never been better than in Bush's watch.Obama is certainly good for the world after the bush-aftermath. For India, I beg to differ. In fact this is the whole gist of my article.

    Obama has big business in kashmir. His interest in kashmir is not rubbish, it is well-founded because its founded on their extreme interest in afghanistan. that we don't like him nosing around and telling us what to do, sigh, is a different issue. why do u think he's cajoling Pakistan? because we don't entertain him on the Kashmir issue.
    like i said, our stand on these burning pionts won't change. neither will USA's. Its a headlock.
    I totally agree Vajpayee is our man, and BJP is our party. Congress should just climb a tree and disappear forever!

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  3. Very insightful analysis of the reasons for Obama's victory in the US elections and what it is likely to signify for the US and us (India).

    Obama's policy regarding Afghanistan and Kashmir should be worrying for us. I agree with most of what you have written but beg to differ with respect to his probable policy regarding Kashmir. :)

    I think he is just naive enough to try to decide the Kashmir issue in favour of Pakistan in return for getting his way in Afghanistan.

    BTW, I too wish that Vajpayee was 30 years younger.

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  4. @dolphin, free-falin' - guys, I have no words to define the feeling that's within me right now!! Glad to know there are still people who believe in expressing their thoughts so loquaciously when its needed!! :):):)

    Anyways, I personally never accredit the accomplishments of the USofA to it alone. Its just that the large exoduses of the world happen to unite at that place. Guess that's what the 'U' stands for!! I do not believe in most of the stuff they preach/follow. I just agree-with and love that nation (no more than mine) for one thing, and this one thing, I know, is true. Its 'THE' LAND OF FREEDOM... People speak and follow their heart, and that's what, undoubtedly, is keeping them on the top. Look at all the 'first-times' in history and the most cruel and compassionate list of things can be traced back to that land.

    Talking of India, 'I' cannot even think of any such a thing happening. Not in this century at least. And yes, I AM being optimistic here!! I was just telling Dolphin a few days back that I have a real passion and interest in politics. But then, I realized it for myself, would my life be spared if I talked of a United India?? What would become of me if I said, no castes, no communities, no religion, just ONE NATION - INDIA?? I am sure I'd be found half way through my process of decomposition in some sewer and no one would even know!! How many would turn up to my party rallies if called them for what I am and what I believe in and not money and booze?? How many of 'US', you and me, would like to go out and vote, waiting in those long queues, hoping someone hasn't rigged your vote yet!! Not the majority of us!! SAD but TRUE. How many would accept Rahul Gandhi as the next Prime Minister of India?? Or for that matter any young and educated person, if he stood for the elections. Just for the fact that he is young, he doesn't talk of divided society and he's educated too. Don't even think about it!! The fucking ivy of castes and religions has crawled so deep into the blood streams, I guess its a concealed trait in the gene pools now!! Reservations are good to have at restraunts, at malls, at shoppings, not for Human lives!! But guess the filthy vermin would never understand that!! Each caste wants a reservation, each community wants a state... Aah, so painful!! These are the fellow citizens of my nation!!!

    Bottom line - we still have a HOPE, that something miraculous WILL happen, someday, one day... A HOPE that someone will come, and change the world forever to come. A HOPE that somehow, all this divide will end. A HOPE AGAINST ALL HOPES HOPEN. But I began to realize, there's no hope. I'm a practical man. I don't believe in hypothesis. I AM. I EXIST. THAT'S TRUE. So maybe, I AM THE HOPE. Each one for HIMSELF... Each one for his NATION... We all love our nation and we all feel that we need to mend our ways sooner than later. WE, AS ONE. Guess this what they call, CHANGE!!! (no, its not because THEY said that, its because WE need it too!!)

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  5. P.S. (or P.C.!!) I DID read the whole post and the comments!! And I say nothing of what Obama implies to India because he is Obama, from America. And anything what happens to India is because of India (the people of India) - for themselves. And more than that, I don't like the idea of the President of the USA leading to consequences that we cannot cope with in India. After all, we have a President of our own, don't we?? What's her name again??

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  6. yeah it was a long post but never mind it was engrossing :D. as far as India is considered, i too believe Obama will spell trouble for us. I've never said he's good for India. What I meant was his interest in kashmir isn't great news for India(for international diplomacy as well) and that India should rather focus on stronger diplomatic ties than hope of US friendship, history shows that US never was a good ally of India. USA's inclination to pakistan is well known just to make its presence felt in Sub-Continent and you're right in saying that it cajoles pakistan as we don't support it. It should be interesting to see how Obama lives up to the expectations of world!

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  7. Very nice post ... I dont understand all the rejoicing in India over Obamania ... he's not getting elected to do something good for you... he has and he will always support US interests and kick anyones belly to ensure it.

    And the cry in Indian media about having a Dalit PM as you correctly pointed out, is pure BS ... hope these guys soon mature and show some substance.

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  8. I was startled to read your view on Obama. While many of us discussed in detail the outcome of this election, I was probably the only one who was apprehensive of Obama. I am in total agreement with you on this. I think we (Indians) are going to be in a bit of trouble when he takes over the reins. Many aspects of our endeavors - Space exploration, nuclear deal, Kashmir, Caspian sea, China and many more - are about to see some changes that are not going to be our cup of tea. Many don't agree with me , but we will wait and see.

    Papa

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  9. This is pretty good analysis of the Obama situation. I am of the opinion that we are going to face some serious problems in the future, with regard to several ongoing international cooperative movements. The nuclear deal with CTBT insistence and other new restrictions by the US govt., Caspian sea gas collaboration, Kashmir issue, Pakistan relationship ( The emergence of "Save Pakistan Club'), China relationship ( Border dispute), arm twisting in the weapons procurement deals, and many more issues are cropping up that are going to be irritants. I don't think our present govt. is going to handle this well.
    Hopefully we will have a better equipped Govt. to handle this but as it stands I am apprehensive of the future.

    Well done and keep it coming.

    PAPA

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  10. Hey wat a post.... The topic of this post comes as a pleasent sirprise, its turning out to be a one of the best blog around with host of topics covered.....

    Wel, adding to the dscussion here wud be like adding to the obama mania but i cant refrain myself from doing it....

    According to me the main reasons for obamas victory are

    > Anti incumbancy
    > Pathetic show by G BUsh
    > Fear of sever recession after 1929
    > Obama's background

    All these factor put together has made a perfect stage for a great victory.

    Now Why is India going gung ho.... Its nothing but a madness created by media by carrying out mindless polls and running chat shows by so called political analyst. What do you expect from TRP starved news channels which runs laughter shows on prime time....

    Obama does not have any magical stick or a ginie in a bottle which can help him to improve the situation which he wil inherit from BUsh, so i think theres overdose of this obama mania.



    Whats in it for us....

    Its true that US needs Pakistan to keep India under pressure but its also true that US badly needs India to counter check CHinas increasing importance in Asia and in the world. It will be great to see this drama unfolding in next 10 to 15 years. China is biggest threat to its dominance at world stage.

    Plus India for that matter is not the India of 1970s and 1980s with its typical hindu growth rate, the ecomomic power and the opinion at the world stage counts as we are a force to reckon with, so obamas policy on kashmir shud not b the cause of concern as US can not throw its wieght behind pakistan as it used to do.

    And finally obama arrives at a time when the world is facing at recession because of the USAs bad financial governace and irrisponsible spending habits. The world financial intitutions such as World Bank and IMF has been predominantly dominated by US because of its financial power, now in this economic crisis BRIC nations (Brasil, Russia, India and China) are seeking more participation to end the US hegemony, so its interesting to see wht obama does to tackle this.

    The opening lines on this post are so perfect...... Welcome to the jungle, Obama.
    Let the fun and games begin

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  11. After all the talk, 4 n agnst, I sure hope he makes use of the special Indian advisor he's employed, steers the Indo-US relations in a more positive direction, & doesn't take away BPO jobs from us.

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  12. @ manju

    hmm...that's a really worrying prospect. actually i would'nt even put it past him. we do hear that the people who have the new president's ears, are not particularily pro-india.

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  13. @ pranav,

    hey, nice to see you again. your strongly worded comment is a great statement of what every young indian today should be thinking about in his head.

    if i keep the political aspects out of my periphery of thought, even i like america because its truly the land of freedom and dreams where anything is possible. they are a true democracy. clean and uncomplicated. in, fact everything is clean and uncomplicated in that country. starting from their roads, homes, environment to the people, their bureaucracy, their schools and education-systems, malls, habits, sidewalks, delis...

    the indian political scene leaves me disillusioned. the madness in it just makes me want to run away from this country. i'm disgusted to such an extent that i've totally detached myself from it. I have a defence services background, so it makes me really sad that while everyday soldiers are dying along the LOC, protecting our people from dangers unknown, taking that bullet in their chests everyday, dogs likes raj thackeray have the gall to massacre innocents mercilessly simply because they want to live. live in a free country, damn it ! we are a free country, are'nt we?
    the only solution to this lack of good leadership in our nation is if we, our generation, wakes-up and takes charge. unfortunately there are only a handful who understand the responsibility.

    ;) i presume u've read my post " whose the prez". it reflects my sentiments on this issue.

    thanks, and keep visiting.

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  14. @ P

    :-) thanks, thanks so much for visiting and reading this! glad to know u agree with me.
    i hope our Government changes sooner than later, because right now, the kind of leaders we are suffering, its darkness all the way.
    i'm reading up on the various topics u've mentioned in your comment. hopefully i'll be able to discuss more on them the next time i see u.
    see u around !

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  15. @ bardox, hey, i share your prayers!

    @ hitesh,

    hitesh, what an insightful comment. US relations with china, under a democratic watch, will be interseting to watch. a lot can be written on this aspect, but now, i think i'm begining to write very very long comments on my comments, heheh.....maybe another post? why don't u write one on this?

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  16. very insightful and comprehensive analysis. hmm, it seems to me youve put in the kind of research one would for a newspaper feature! i think all this hulabuloo is about people wanting to see a new face, just as they like to see new news on the tv, new movies, or a new enterant in big boss ka ghar.

    not sure what obama means for india, but im certainly hoping he doesnt end up costing me my job!

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  17. Well quite a comprehensive analysis but based on facts...
    I was wondering how our thinking direction matches eachother...

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  18. followed ur blog...u must write more.

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  19. As promised I am here. And here to read a lot of posts. I am sorry for doing this after a LONG time. Just been caught up. Exams and then preparations and then more exams. Now is the phase for preparations. And exams from 12th :|

    Lets move to the more meaningful part..

    "There’s nothing new to write really"
    At least for me it was new. Very true. Helpless shit, people drawing connections between Obama and Hindu gods was something atrociously hilarious. But then I don't think it deserves a space here. One thing is for sure. If on earth you have to hand out awards for foolishness and counting chickens even before eggs are laid...Indians have to be those blessed ones. Nelson Mandela...? Give me a break!! As a personal opinion..I don't give a shit as to who is the American or the Iraqi or the Somalian or the Dutch president. For all I care is the Indian PM. And lmao...we know who that is. US politics may not be a staggering display of character and blah balh but damn isn't it effective. 9/11 and post that..no one messed. We still have to see what the US president has in store for us. It better be something nice. Otherwise we will look like nothing short of shameless fools. Find out own Obama? I beg to disagree. You cannot dream about jumping around on pluto even when you haven't stepped on the moon. Let us first find someone "human" in our politics. Obama remains a distant goal.

    You really have a very potent and a very firm view. And it is very easy for someone to nod his head all along cos it is so balanced and so correct.
    It was worth the wait. You write well :)

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  20. @ comfortably numb

    hey, good to finally see you here!

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  21. thanks for your comments free-fallin'. i think we've bad memory. each time a war is followed probably by a cricket match or a election, we forget the sacrifices of police officials and start blaming them for bad administration. probably we're good at bashing people. but after these attacks, i haven't heard anyone preaching peace with pakistan which is good, we all know how freely lashkar head gives speeches in lahore and how dawood's terror supporting stories float around. we're angry now and should stay angry. keep questioning.
    i was wondering why didn't you post on the attacks. probably we all sub-consciously lament at our lame govt incapable of tackling terror head-on, i'm proud that our army has time and again given their best.

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  22. @ comfortably numb

    hi, like i said, am glad to finally see you here. sorry, i took some time in replying to your comment, but now coming to that, yes, i do wish that the maybe if the media spent even half of the efforts it wastes in utter foolishness and sensationalism, the bigger picture would be more sensible.
    so typical of us to count our eggs, and make dreamy omelettes from them. why are we always waiting for some knight in shiny armour to come save us? why don't we do some saving ourselves?
    on a level, USA has sent out the message " DON'T MESS WITH US" and it has prevented further 9/11's from happening. but i think it would'nt have been so painfully funny if bush had managed to get his hands on obama..er...correction...osama.
    i don't think bombing innocent people is the answer.
    oh, thanks for reading!

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lemme know what u think...share your thoughts on the post. Comments, critisicm, all is welcome...so let it loose!

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