Sunday, February 10, 2008

Obama, Canadians and Implosion

I know that this is a space reserved for philosophy, but my thoughts have meandered as of late to the upcomer and underdog for the Democratic Primary for US President -- my favorite -- Barack Obama. Not only does his name sound like a Bounty Hunter from the Star Wars galaxy, but his educated and well-mannered tone foster in my heart an optimism I haven't felt since I began studying politics long ago (my second undergrad major was in Political Science).

In my heart of hearts, I feel he can do it. On Super Tuesday, Feb 5th, he carried a majority of the states. Today, he carried all 3 primaries: Nebraska, Louisania, Washington State and the Virgin Islands. What his victories tell me is he can reach and grab the attention of Republican dominated rural states. I feel this comes from his message of union and hope. His politics may be less liberal than I would hope, but if he can heal the great divide of liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, then there is a chance I can feel pride in my home once again.

Now, I often am obsessed with phenomenology, but it should be said that I am somewhat more of an ethicist right now. Perhaps, if I do get into a PhD program andmy research interests change, this will change. However, the research strength of my university is in its tremendous experts in ethics, meta-ethics and moral psychology. As such, I am at my best when doing ethics, and so it is not a far stretch of the imagination to hear an ethicist speculating about a better hope for America. Ethicists are a worrisome bunch about "what ought to be the case"

Canadians often refer to being the neighbor of America as "having an elephant as a neighbor." Most of my colleagues are liberal academics like myself, and BC is a pretty liberal place. Given this, my anecdotes of note are suggestive of a small representation of Canadian opinions concerning the United States. I find it funny that given these conditions and how liberal Hillary Clinton is believed to be over Barack Obama that the majority of Canadian colleagues I have talked to want Obama over Hillary. There is something untrustworthy about a politician who is so scripted! This criticism has come up more than once.

Jean Baudrillard has said that traditional categories of political space have imploded into other social categories. This idea of implosion in relation to politics has seen a collapse of entertainment and politics. In fact, they are pretty much the same thing anymore. We are supposedly entertained by the drama of a campaign trail, and part of this entertainiment is the scripted responses we get from our candidates. You could say we almost expect the answers they give before they give them like Hamlet pondering "whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them." Like the return of a festival, as Gadamer would describe it, we expect the same routine, the same performative utterances to be played out before us. Obama has defied such performative expectation.

When Obama started gaining my attention, it was from the 200,000 college kids that added themselves to the Facebook group wanting him for President. At several speeches and debates, Obama has been lively and engaging. Often, you can see him no longer looking at the teleprompter. He is spontaneous with words pouring from his heart, or so I believe. As a philosopher, I can acknowledge the force and conviction I have for his sincerity. I can always be proven wrong, and therefore must revise my beliefs. However, I have no evidence to suggest otherwise, and from everything I have heard I will consider myself justified prima facie in believing that Obama is a man who cares far above the anticipated scripted narrative of Hillary Clinton's persona.

Besides, apparently Obama was moved by Nietzsche, Sartre and a few other philosophers as reported by the New York Times

NYT Article on Obama

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