Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama For the People

"Yes, we can."

The words which apparently invigorated the usually numb masses and brought young people to life. This is not a rant about Obama's character, political leanings, administration or future thoughts. In fact, this isn't about Obama at all. I want to address the electorate, those brave souls who voted in the hope of change.

Change is a good thing, perhaps the best of things, yet there are issues behind every change. I know that this is complex, and nobody that I know can address every facet of large changes, but I can focus on a specific area. I'm calling it New Year's Resolution Hope.

How many January 1st resolutions have you made and kept? If you are like me, you stopped making them a long time ago after seeing that they are largely futile. In the years when I made them, I only once kept one, and that was actually pretty cool. What happened in the years following? How did I get disillusioned?

Let's take a look at motivational conferences: work related, Christian, emotional, take charge of your life, whatever. I haven't attended those conferences for years because it seems to me that they most often carry a common theme: hype without a lasting solution. Yes, they are positive, and if you believe in the power of positive thinking...well, I do too. But positive thinking alone isn't enough to bring a lasting change. Consider my little scenerio here.

Let's say that our man Cliff goes to a one day conference which teaches him about X positive potential in his life. That's good. Cliff now sees something which he didn't know before, and learning is excellent. Cliff goes home, totally fired up by the possibility of seeing healthy change, and sets about accomplishing this. Trouble is, Cliff works in a job he tolerates, he's struggling with a significant relationship, and his favourite TV show plays tonight. The conference did outline a plan of action, but Cliff has a crazy work schedule this week, and there's still that troubling relationship to continue dealing with. What's a guy to do? His strength sapped, Cliff bails on steps three and four in favour of watching his team play an exhibition game. By the end of three weeks, he's either wiped out, discouraged, and ticked with the situation, or he's already looking for the next solution.

The majority of us -- that does mean you and I -- don't know or understand how to go about establishing permanent or dramatic change in our lives. Combine our lack of understanding with an inherently lazy mainstream culture enslaved to personal comfort, and we set ourselves up for failed New Year's Resolutions time and time again.

There is nothing wrong with getting fired up about a concept. Being zealous has kickstarted many a change, both good and bad. But when I lack the community to support me, when it's terribly easy to stay comfortable instead of doing the truly hard work involved in personal change, getting fired up isn't enough. Perhaps I'm being pessimistic. Tell me. How many people do you know who don't spend most of their free time in front of a screen? How many times have you read a magazine cover stating "Perfect Abs in Five Minutes a Day"? The fire will fizzle out without fuel, and that happens so often because hard work provides the fuel.

What will be the result in a few years when the electorate, no longer dazzled by bright lights and flashing smiles, see that -- for instance -- the racial sentiments in their own lives and in their communities aren't changing in five minutes work per day? "Hope deferred makes the heart sick," and I fear that misplaced anger and hopelessness will be the result: a waste of potential. I know that I said this isn't about Barack, but it does inevitably circle back to him. The danger for his administration, outside of just giving up, will likely lie in pushing too hard. Unfortunately, the only way to absolutely ensure change is through absolute control, and we already see a United States with hints of fear induced Big Brother peeking around the corner.

Hear me.

This is not to say that Mr. Obama is inevitably going to resort to strong-arm tactics. What I refer to is a sometimes annoying but essential part of free society: personal choice. As I've already outlined, most people choose to take the most comfortable option, and what we already know is most comfortable to us, right or wrong. Therein lies the coming presidency's greatest challenge to completing hope.

Sound hopeless? I think that it is, and it isn't. I hope that Mr. Obama and the powers behind him properly realise the enormity of attitude change on a national and community level. Hope is a beginning. Hope provides strength in difficulty. Will the population and the administration embrace difficulty, and do so with wisdom -- that is to say a holistic viewpoint?

I'm not here to provide the solution. No one person can, but neither do I want to shirk my personal responsibility. That rather leads to my next future topic which delves into a crisp sentence I heard yesterday, and I quote, "People are meant to be lead."

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