Illusions

by CarlD

To be disillusioned one must first have illusions. In another of his terrific posts reflecting on political engagement, Timothy Burke quotes Doris Lessing on African liberation:

To be in love with a country or a political regime is a tricky business. You get your heart broken even more surely than by being in love with a person. You may even lose your life. I knew a woman political activist in the old days–in this case, the 1950s. She spent her days and her nights working to undo the white regime in South Africa. Needing a rest, she went to visit Nigeria, to see her dream made flesh, found it was run by human beings, and committed suicide. Everyone who has been involved with idealistic, rhetorical politics knows a thousand versions of this story, from all over the world. African Laughter (1988)

Or a dreamy candidate. Gramsci described the politics of charisma as a condition of permanent spasm leading to exhaustion and reactionary backlash. Despite all the handwringing each election cycle brings about the terrible perils of a victory by the other side, the U.S. political system is pretty well flywheeled against extremes. Even so, I’m a little worried about the longer-term effects of Barack Obama’s campaign. He really doesn’t have anything very exciting to say at the level of policy – again, our system is flywheeled against extremes – nor as President would he have unilateral power to carry out any agenda. He can probably do some nice little things, but as he says himself, it’s mostly up to us to carry our own weight.

Spiffy as he may be, there’s only so much the guy can do. I don’t see how the dreams he’s selling, or that have been attached to him, can survive the human realities of office. Yay Barack, hope on, but in the meantime let’s start hiding the sleeping pills just in case.

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