In the end, that’s what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I’m not talking about blind optimism here — the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don’t talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I’m talking about something more substantial. It’s the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker’s son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!
-Barack Obama, Addressing the Democratic National Convention, 2004
Hope. Running on an agenda based little more than on the transient human emotionalism of “hope” and “change,” Obama took advantage of the zeitgeist in the country weary of insurmountable problems left by his predecessor and was elected President of the United States. On the day after the American Presidential election of 2008, Obama had charmed even the most cynical of his own party to be audacious enough to hope that “things would change” under a Obama Administration. What has transpired however, is that the energy that fuels hope for change depleted over time, when expectations are shattered by the reality of the intractable problems that were still here and which led us to hope for something, or someone to save us from ourselves, and after the shattering letdown of hope’s promise, we find ourselves wondering why we allowed ourselves to be seduced by the audaciousness of hope in the first place.
It’s because politicians know how to wind people up. They know what symbols will resonate with the people, and Obama may have lucked into a unlocking a resonant symbol within Americans who desperately wanted done with Bush, Iraq, Afghanistan, terrorism, et al, with his speech at the 2008 Democratic Convention. Using the emotional weight of all these problems against the people, the politics of hope and change represented an alluring freshness that few Americans could resist. John McCain, who represented everything Hope and Change was seeking to displace, was destined again to pick the wrong time to run for president.
Some of my friends were annoyed with me because I scoffed at the promise of “change” that they swore Obama would initiate. The reason why I scoffed was because I understood the correct definition of the word, “hope.” Here it is: a feeling of expectation for a positive outcome. That’s it, and see where they manipulate and GET you: on the feelings! “Wow. I sure hope I get that raise.” Or, “Boy, I sure hope President Obama will do something about the income disparity in society.” And so on. I have to ask: is hoping any different from wishing?
Wish: to feel or express a strong desire or hope for something that is not easily attainable.
Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.
So I ask… is sitting around “wishing” and “hoping” for something good to “happen” worth really worth the trouble? Is living without hope all that bad? Because I gotta tell you, I do not allow myself to be emotionally manipulated by politicians. But unfortunately, most Americans are because they believe their emotions are real, and that emotions are a vital part of being a human being. But is it an effective way to live? Can you see how sitting around wishing or hoping for something is a fruitless attempt without some kind of action? I get that having a positive attitude is all one can do when everything is turning to shit around you. But is appealing to hope the only way to deal with the horrific crap that exists all around us?
I don’t think so. This hope is the same as faith, and has been used by religious authorities to direct human desires to some future event where all misery ends. When Obama referred to the “hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs,” in his address to the 2004 Democratic Convention, he flattered his fellow conventioneers by exploiting the shame of Slavery in America through the symbol of hope couched in stoic terms that somehow allowed the audience to fantasize that the end of slavery was brought about by hopeful slaves singing freedom songs around the campfire. The voters for Obama were hopeful that this extraordinary man could change the way things are done in this country. But what happens when that man finds out that he is not equal to the Office? Every promise must be thrown out the window and disregarded as the systematic forces that converge on the Presidency quickly persuade the man who has become President that he is just the figurehead that must yield to those forces or be swept away.
Obama’s almost Messianic paean to Hope was crushed by the reality of global capitalism and everyone who once had the audacity to hope have now walked the long road of Disillusionment. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because “hopefully,” in the future, the American People will no longer be emotionally manipulated by K Street, Wall Street and the Washington elites. By running on hope and change, and achieving nothing at all while in office, Obama has had to helplessly watch the decline of the President’s stature, because if one is touted as a Messiah, one is bound to never show up. But at least we can dispense with the Hope political gambit and not be fooled by it the next time around. But I don’t hold out any hope that we will change until something really, really BIG kicks our asses. But by then, it will be too late. The politics of hope and the economics of hope are as about as useful as a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest. What people want isn’t so much hope as it is security. And what makes us secure? Money. Cold, hard cash. Consider the Equal Money system as a possible solution. Don’t allow yourself to be emotionally manipulated by the politics of hope.