New World Order

November 7, 2008 at 12:13 am Leave a comment

paw_largeI promise to get back to writing silly flights of fancy soon, but I’m not quite done processing my thoughts around the momentous events down south yet.  I’ve tried to do a little of both here in this re-written (11/08/08) blog post.

Barack Obama’s 1994 autobiography, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, has shot to the top of the amazon.com and other bestseller lists. However, if you want to know what Barack himself is reading, you might want to check out Fareed Zakaria’s new book: The Post-American World. Zakaria is the editor of Newsweek International, and I caught an interview with him this a.m. on Nov 6th on CBC Radio 1.

Prior to that, I had an exchange with aurora*raby on gawker about what the next step is for the U.S. (this was Nov 2, before Obama won).  The left-leaning,  educated, predominantly northeast, urban gawker audience was raging against and in some cases vehemently insulted by an article in Germany’s der Spiegel calling the U.S. “a superpower around the globe, but a Third World country at home…” and making a number of other inflammatory (albeit closer to true than false) accusations. In a moment of sanity on a thread that was degenerating in somewhat surprising ways to me given the gawker demographic, aurora*raby commented:

“we prove ourselves to be one big alcoholic family (Bush’s, no doubt) if we lash out at constructive criticism. We are very close to throwing off the yoke. Let’s start thinking about the next step.”

It prompted me to think about the next step.  Also, over the next week, about leadership, globalization and the Starship Enterprise.  To get in the proper frame of mind, I suggest you click on this youtube vid for the soundtrack to the rest of this post.

More, after the jump.

Have you got Imagine up and playing?  Good.

To aurora*raby, I replied:

“The next step is an evolution of how a superpower like the U.S. can wield influence and act as a force for change within the international community.

To do that, the U.S. will need to rebuild its standing among its allies, including Germany. Start listening–even when the message might sting a little. Start acting collaboratively not unilaterally.

International relations take on an entirely different flavour. No longer founded on the moral authority or political power of the individual superpower state, which the U.S. can no longer claim, but by its ability to build a community of like-minded states acting for the common good.

Hmmmm. Wonder who might be the best leader of the free world to do that?”

This thought was reinforced this Thursday morning listening to Zakaria.  Now is the time and Barack Obama is the leader to create an entirely new world order.  While people have been focusing on the racial barrier that Obama has broken through, there is another leap forward that needs to–and I believe, is about to–be made.  The traditional world order, in which countries exist in tense polarities based on economic strength, political inclinations or geographic proximity (developed or developing; established or emerging), and where the U.S. has been the central reference point, is evaporating with globalization and the completely reshaped international community it has spawned.

“Imagine there’s no countries … it isn’t hard to do …” — John Lennon

Having a global view necessitates having a long-term view.  Obama alluded to it in his Grant Park speech on election night when he said:  “A new dawn of American leadership is at hand … This victory alone is not the change we seek – it is only the chance for us to make that change.”  He did not just mean repudiating the Bush legacy, or some allusion to ‘change’ as a reactionary slogan to capture the popular imagination.  He means change as a process and an evolution…as the next step. He means that the world has changed, America has changed, and in order to assume leadership in this new world, an entirely new type and kind of leader is required.  Just over 52% of Americans believe that Obama is that leader.  Upwards of 75% of the rest of the world does.

Obama also said, in a moment that was reminiscent of MLK Jr’s “I may not get there with you …” from his I Have A Dream speech that:

“The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America – I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you – we as a people will get there.” — Barack Obama

This is great speech writing.  But it is also more:  it is a demonstration of Obama’s breadth of vision and his understanding of his place in history.  He additionally understands that he is but an instrument of that change.

The change that must and is about to take place, regardless of who is in power in the U.S., is going to move the entire world into the future.  It seems to be incredibly clear:  we–as in, the entire planet–either continue growing, building, creating, unifying and better managing our people and our resources for the good of all, or we fester, degenerate and decline…ultimately weakening the human race and depleting the planet’s resources to our eventual end as a species.  We either take a long-term view, or a short-term one.  We either think globally, or we think locally.   We are either progressive or reactionary; creative or destructive.  We either act with optimism and for the greater good, or we act out of fear and self-interest.

Those were the two choices in front of the American people.  One leader represented growth, collaboration, optimism and hope.  The other represented stagnation, isolationism, fear and destruction.

The author’s view (I haven’t read the book yet; only listened to the interview) sounds to me both optimistic and realistic, much like Obama’s.  While his book was written well before Obama was even elected leader of the Democratic party, and certainly before he became President-elect, Zakaria is a long-time Obama fan.  He reflected on what Barack Obama’s challenges are in leading the U.S. at this time and–even more importantly–what qualities he brings to the role. In short, Zakaria contends that of every candidate for both parties at the start of the campaign two years ago, only Obama exhibited the personal qualities and vision to lead the U.S. in a “post-American world.”

The new world order will be based on the ability to build consensus, listen with an open mind, and not just tolerate but integrate a wide variety of points of view.  It requires a leader who not only has, but can execute, a vision–a vision that is far more externally and globally focused than has ever been the case among U.S. leaders, and certainly among Americans in general.* The U.S. can no longer expect to wield power as the world’s only remaining superpower; instead, it will exert influence by rallying a community of like-minded nations behind a common goal.  It will need to create optimism and the belief that collaboration is not only the necessary thing to do, but the right thing to do.

startrek_shipplanet* with the exception of Gene Roddenberry of course.  His political theory, including the United Federation of Planets‘ Charter, extrapolated from the UN’s charter and postulated a future united world government founded on universal liberty, equality, justice, peace, and cooperation. I’m being only slightly facetious with a reference to Star Trek … Gene Roddenberry, may he rest in peace, was fully as visionary and at this point even more influential than Obama.

Back to the change that is a-comin’.  This will require a leader with the ability to form alliances, inspire confidence, and instill hope.  And even more, it will require one whose strength is founded on exceptional humility.  It’s not an adjective that typically leaps to mind when describing an American president.  But it’s a quality that Americans have chosen in their newest president, even if it is a quality that is less obvious and more foreign to many of them than the blackness of his skin.

As an observer from above the 49th parallel, I rejoiced in the election of Obama for not just his political platform and stand on the issues, but his personal characteristics and vision for what the U.S. can and must become on the world’s stage.  I am looking forward and will be watching to see how this extraordinary man performs, and feel heartened to know that a thinker like Zakaria (and I hope one like Roddenberry) is on his reading list.

“You may say I’m a dreamer.  But I’m not the only one.  Maybe some day, you’ll join us.  And the world will live as one.”  –John Lennon

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Entry filed under: Books, Politics. Tags: , , , , , , , .

History is Made Beam Me Up, Obama…

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