2008 February 16 Saturday
Will Cynicism Win Out Over Hope For Obama Magic?

Dahlia Lithwick can't be an Obama groupie now that Obamamania is so mainstream.

I know this is going to sound strange, but it's not you, Barack, it's me. Really it always was me, but now it's really, really about me. I don't know when we started to feel weird supporting you, but: My friend Hanna thinks it started with that "Yes We Can," video. I mean, last week I was totally crying watching it. Now just thinking about how choked up I got gives me the creeps. I think I felt something at the time, but even if I did, I'm pretty sure I don't want to feel it anymore. Feeling inspired is soooo early-February.

I think Dahlia only wants to lead trends. She doesn't actually want to stick around once a trend matures for any longer than it takes to show that she was out front in the vanguard.

Or maybe it started when everyone began madly posting last week about how you are not the Messiah. And that got me thinking. Then, when commentators started accusing me of being a venomous drone in a "cult of personality," I just needed to get out. I mean cults are soooo 1970s. And cults of personality? So totally first century.

Once everyone else has joined up you are just one in a huge mass and you lose the characteristic that made you part of a small, distinctively different, and most importantly better group. You can't stay well above average by supporting the mainstream. That's Dahlia's problem and one of the basic problems with the human condition. Well, I'm glad she doesn't want to be part of a cult of personality. This need to be separate puts limits on dangerous herding activity.

A twenty one year old writes to Andrew Sullivan about his emotional needs that he looks to Obama to fill.

There's one salient reason why people of my age are supporting Obama and that's because we feel that Obama will finally show us what it means to be proud of our president.

This foolish kid likes Obama because he felt giddy in Obama's presence.

I attended an Obama rally a few days ago and was amazed at how filled up with emotion I was. Halfway through his speech, other 21 year olds just like that filled the Hall were screaming their heads off, waving banners, and grinning. Everyone was giddy, hell even I was giddy. I was smiling and chanting along to "Yes We Can."

As for "Yes We Can": Oh no you can't. The hippies in the 60s thought music could change the world. Neil Young recently commented that, no, music can't change the world. Neil appears to more realistically think that scientists working alone matter more than singers. I wonder when he figured that out.

A Song Alone.
By Neil Young

No one song can change the world. But that doesnít mean its time to stop singing.
Somewhere on Earth a scientist is alone working. No one knows what he or she is thinking. The secret is just within reach. If I knew that answer I would be singing the song.

Though Neil thinks there was a time when music could change the world. But of course Don McClean explained how that ended in "The Day The Music Died".

"I think that the time when music could change the world is past," Young told reporters, according to the AP. "I think it would be very naÔve to think that in this day and age."

Maybe Neil and others like him see the world as going through stages where the magic gradually drains away. I'm reminded of the movie in which Queen Mab (Miranda Richardson) failed to stop the decline of magic by creating Merlin (Sam Neill). I see that movie as trying to build a mental bridge showing how a mythical past was replaced with our physically constrained present. The political magic believers ought to try to reconcile themselves with the modern world by seeing this story as explaining how the magic died.

We live in a world with no rock stars - at least none under the age of 50. So younger politicians see an opening to try to pose as rock stars in order to appeal to that youthful demographic. Some people obviously want a Barack Obama or other conjurer to somehow bring back supposedly lost magic so that people who chant "Yes We Can" really can change the world. But that's not going to happen. The best outcome we can hope for is that someone ends up with a beautiful Isabella Rossellini made youthful again using scientific rejuvenation therapies.

If Obama gets elected then his giddy supporters of today are eventually going to end up feeling pretty disappointed. The problems of the world are not that tractable by political leaders with enormous wisdom and people with enormous wisdom pretty much don't want to run for the US Presidency anyway. Instead we end up with charismatic showmen who only pretend to possess real wisdom.

Today our biggest problems aren't even part of the mainstream debate in this election and many of those problems are denied by the major political players. The world's population grows by 100 million a year (97 million in 2007, more in 2008). Most of that growth comes among the most ignorant, poor, and dumb parts of humanity. While our intellectuals worry about global warming we are running out of fossil fuels and consuming an ever growing portion of nature as food, fiber, and fuel. Obama might present his policies as a radical departure from the past but I bet his Africa policies will just be an extension of the aid scale-up that Bush is already doing. The population and habitat destruction problems will be totally ignored. The doubling of Africa's population by 2050 will be ignored. This isn't magic. This is mass delusion.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 February 16 09:49 AM  Politics Human Nature

JSBolton said at February 16, 2008 4:39 PM:

Change now, presto-change-o! People who don't like their identity and probably for good reason, wish for magical change. How unspeakably low the left has fallen, to extol cultishness of magical change leaders. These are the ones who used to tell us that they were rational and that the right was a faith based intitiative. Earlier they touted 'scientific socialism'. Now they swoon for a leader of magic change, yes they can, but the right can and should say: fold your circus tent of unreason and move on!

Dave Gore said at February 17, 2008 9:56 AM:

"The world's population grows by 100 million a year (97 million in 2007, more in 2008). Most of that growth comes among the most ignorant, poor, and dumb parts of humanity.... The doubling of Africa's population by 2050 will be ignored. This isn't magic. This is mass delusion."

I'm glad to see you are shifting from your earlier position that population growth per se is bad. After all, some of the richest countries in per capita terms (Luxembourg, Netherlands, Singapore) have high population densities, and many of the poorest (Namibia, Botswana, Kazakhstan) have very low population densities. The smart fraction theory (see http://www.lagriffedulion.f2s.com/sft.htm ) and rule of law are better guides to well-being.

Engineer-Poet said at February 18, 2008 12:49 PM:
This isn't magic. This is mass delusion.
Having read "Dreaming the Dark", I would suggest that even the practitioners know they are one and the same.

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