The Audacity of Obama

Before you read this post I must reject two possible assumptions you may have formed by looking at the title: 1. That I’m about to comment on anything in particular that Barack Obama might have said or done lately – frankly I have no idea what he’s been up to lately; 2. That the title of this blog, taking as it does the title of his book The Audacity of Hope and editing it, is done so to critique him or in any way put him down. As I shall now explain, it’s some of Obama’s slightly audacious comments that I appreciate.

I picked up the book a couple of days ago at my parents’ house, and have read a few pages with interest – I’m a bit of an American-o-phile, and have been investing time in reading some of the nation’s history lately.

I’m coming to like the guy; as anyone who’s read the book will hopefully agree, he comes across as genuine, thoughtful, intelligent, caring. All the right boxes to be checked for a presidential candidacy, I suppose the sceptics might argue, but I’ve not often had time for their bitter comments.

One paragraph in particular has caught my attention just now. As Obama describes his journey of discovery of new liberties that was brought about through the sixties and onwards, he also deftly describes some of the issues he saw to arise in that time of social and political change: ‘…my rejection of authority spilled into self-indulgence and self-destructiveness…I’d begun to see how any challenge to convention harbored within it the possibility of its own excesses and its own orthodoxy…’ In other words – for this is something I myself have often thought though not been able to express with such clarity – it’s foolish to believe that going against the grain is virtuous in and of itself simply by the fact that it challenges conventions. Very often we see one of two things:

1. That the party challenging ‘convention’ are simply operating out of, for want of a better word, a ‘rebellious’ spirit or inclination, but have no substance to back up their fight – no substantial policy in which to anchor their beliefs, and they are largely ignored and fade away, or
2. With more substantial beliefs in place, the party that in the first place sought to subvert and overturn convention in the end themselves became conventional or, in Obama’s word, ‘orthodox’.

He goes on to say how his observations were formed in the conversations held in college dorms, hives for subversive language and activity, and how he came to recognise

‘the point at which the denunciations of capitalism or American imperialism came too easily, and the freedom from the constraints of monogamy or religion was proclaimed without fully understanding the value of such constraints, and the role of victim was too readily embraced as a means of shedding responsibility, or asserting entitlement, or claiming moral superiority over those not so victimized.’

I think his words should echo across post-modern society and give people pause for thought in all Western countries, indeed perhaps more particularly Europe. But of course not everyone will, and some will no doubt see him as merely another Democrat spinning off rhetoric in an underhand attempt at winning votes. I, for one, think he has something to say. So there.

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