Friday, November 14, 2008

Surprised by joy

A striking and pleasant sight on this morning's rush hour train: two high school boys, not more than 16 years old, very obviously more than friends. Nothing particular really one might say and surely even today they were braving something (though certainly not with an air of proving any point, just engaging in private happiness quite unselfconsciously). But I was suddenly struck by the thought of how much more they would have been braving mere 20 years ago (actually the whole scene would have been pretty much unimaginable) - there truly is a strong, forceful wave of tolerance and reason spreading through the younger generations all over the industrialized world. And in that moment I felt - perhaps a non sequitur - that there still is vitality and selfconfidence in the old enlightenment West. The tide of emancipation still is advancing, still alive.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Happy days are here again?

Even two months ago I would not have thought it really crucial which candidate would be elected to be the president of the USA. Two months can be a very long time. I guess it has not been truly realized how tremendous these Wall Street tremors have been. With a less imaginitive and interventionist Federal Reserve we might already been a long way into a global depression. These are very dangerous times, almost comparable to the times of Roosevelt and Churchill - whose election to power was the proof of the vitality and self-confidence of the liberal West. Maybe this decision is a similar sign. So perhaps we would then get the USA back to the serious business of leading the Western alliance - the moment of hyperpowerdom and unilateralist hubris passed quickly but so much damage was made in that short time. Such a disastrous abandonment of wisdom and moderation by the American nationalist right with their aggressive America firstism: no real understanding, no long views. I have now CCR on, the voice of America - such a good feeling to feel the optimism and hope radiating once again from across the Atlantic. One only wonders how long it takes before the freezing cold winds of history will wipe this optimism away. Well, just perhaps not this time.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Long eight years

By the year 2000 I had become very distanced from party politics and ideology that once were unreally important and meaningful for me. I had ended up - after all the emotional upheavals and dramatic shifts - liberal, vaguely centre left, ironically quite in bearing with my personal background and the positions that I had originally begun with. But I was very certainly not much interested in concrete centre left politics and parties. I believed that all that was relatively irrelevant and distasteful. I simply - comfortably - assumed that though unpleasant things constantly occurred and unpleasant parties and politicians kept winning offices that social progress would nevertheless continue, not steadily, not overtly but all the while. I also believed that party politics were largely irrelevant to that progress, that the political process would eventually mirror this grassroots advance, maybe not satisfactorily or gratifyingly but nevertheless things would get better, even if gradually, even if messily.

It took the administration of George W. Bush to persuade me otherwise. Suddenly I was re-politized, at times even mesmerized by the spectacular shipwreck of the American (and to a large degree, Western) political process. I’m no anti-American – I have been a steady liberal cold warrior (having doubts only now) and have seen the American leadership and power as essential for our Western civilization and its liberal and humanistic values. I had just not realized how far the corruption had gone, how quickly the enlightenment values of the American revolution were dissipating and the society and politics getting more plutocratic, the citizens more distanced from elite politics and irrational fundamentalism and anti-empirism growing stronger. These eight years have certainly been an education to all of us. Perhaps today will finally mark the turn of the tide. Much is resting on a single, politically enigmatic, relatively inexperienced person faced with powerful structural counterforces and a national moral – and financial – bankruptcy. A task not to be envied.