A full transcript of Obama’s Mandela lecture, it wraps up so well how we have gotten to this point:
It’s incredible how amazing he is at explaining something and so troubling how duplicitous it is when he acts like he isn’t a part of the problems. I resent him for how he handled some of what he inherited. I guess I should have known better than to have as much optimism in a politician…but it sure stung
Adding this rather than posting below. I saw this shortly after this post and figured it points to my disappointment.
I often wonder about this. He’s clearly a man of conscience, so I fail to comprehend how he lives with it.
All too true.
But speeches like this accomplish something on their own – they help reframe the discussion cogently and clearly in ways that leading D candidates should pick up on and use, since many of them still have trouble even formulating an argument. This speech makes very clear that all these matters should be part of the mainstream and not the fringe of public discourse.
In other words, the still-dominant neoliberal wing of the Democratic party can no longer justify itself. They can no longer sing the same tune. That time is over. This speech is a license to think and act otherwise.
Or, maybe I just desperately feel the need to be optimistic about something. Maybe that’s all it is.
My guess is either he lives with his conscience or would have perished or lost office due to some invented or exposed scandal. CIA, FBI, DIA, NSA (many 3 letter agencies / military) historically have at the least ignored warning signs of possible assassination / abduction, or have (allegedly) been complicit in the assassination of leaders globally … This being fairly likely, it still doesn’t excuse violations of oath of office etc. That sort of risk is part of the job of being a world leader. I can also understand the fear of losing your family or worse if you talk or act against the will of the state.
I still think about this family often: al-Awlaki
Even worse than the economic things was failing to dismantle the Bush infrastructure, failing to close Guantanamo and try people on US soil, failure to hold those in the Bush admin accountable for war crimes.
But I do wonder, in light of this speech – in Hillary’s entire year of campaigning she not once had a single idea, a single point of vision or a single way to make clear what she stood FOR. Why then would people come out and vote for her? Why would they turn out at all? I still think that the number of people who simply stayed home due to a horribly uninspiring candidate was at least an order of magnitude greater than those who were influenced by Russian-originated propaganda and the DNC is just hiding behind the Russia thing and not doing a damn thing to see how and why they were in so many ways the problem in sabotaging the candidate Americans really wanted.
Obama is saying, no you can’t do that anymore, even a mainstream politician like himself is seeing how things really are, you must address these things and come up with a new vision for the world as it is [and here are some guidelines for that vision] At least that’s how I hope the speech gets received.
No all Bush. Maybe the depth of corruption of that time will become public knowledge but most likely not. The whole shebang was ensured to be stitched and packaged before Obama got in - and for the Presidential pardons…Bush was the most corrupt US administration ever financially…
from “neoliberalism, but give it identity politics” to Obama’s phrase, “an inclusive, market-based solution” is truly a rebrand for the ages . Funny how he says “economic determinism” to mean “Marxist materialism” as well.
I share your squirming, reading this speech! I think I agree with you—one thing we can hope for from here is that Mark Fisher’s Big Other (I swear, the third time I mention it on here I’ll provide a link) is finally facing a few facts.
I also appreciated, as I always do, the long view. It is hard to see how we’ve (the US) gotten here from the perspective of the past four years, but it is, imo, really easy to see how we might’ve if we allow ourselves to zoom out a few decades.
I also appreciated, as I always do, the long view. It is hard too see how we’ve (the US) gotten here from the perspective of the past four years, but it is, imo, really easy to see how we might’ve if we allow ourselves to zoom out a few decades.
Completely agree. This rot in American politics goes back at least to the Reagan era, with the incorporation of evangelical agendas (i.e. faith over facts) into the Republican party, and the removal of equal time laws that allowed 24 hour propaganda networks to construct all-inclusive realities- political religions, in effect.
This was just linked to in another place I frequent:
Helms with the content, Gingrich with the method.
Really interesting follow-up: last week’s conversation between Erik Davis and Adam Fisher on where things went wrong…
Fisher’s new book seems like it may be worth getting, as it’s not just a straightforward hagiography and supposedly focuses some on the 1984-1995 period which has a lot more to do with cultural paradigms, rather than business stories.
Fisher thinks mainly things started to go wrong in the early 2000’s with the iPod, as the paradigmatic example of reductive technologies of consumption as opposed to expansive technologies of production, augmentation, etc. but I agree with you that the conditions for this were already in place by 1995, especially as exposed in the article you found.
Don’t forget that the origins of Silicon Valley are wrapped up in the marriage of the military-industrial complex with psychedelic libertarianism.
The point is “the conditions for this were already in place” looooong before 1995.
I think it’s more that there are actually two stories here, and the “this” is the fact of the regressive story dominating the more progressive one, where sometime between 1995 and 2003 the reversal became clear. Still, there’s quite a lot of validity to the perspective that it was all along just one story. It certainly explains why someone like Jaron Lanier, in my view can be so good at picking up on problems, and then so comically useless in his “solutions” as he thinks one simply could have changed the technology or worse throw more of the same technology at the problem. Kate Crawford is a lot better on these issues because she goes beyond Lanier’s view of technology as “just tools”.
«The car shaped the rise of what Richard Nixon identified as a “silent majority” of suburban whites back in the late 1960s, and is a precursor to the suburban and rural backlash that lifted Donald Trump to victory in 2016.
Nall has written that “Democrats and Republicans have adopted increasingly different positions on spatial policy issues such as transit and highways. Transportation infrastructure has been a necessary condition of large-scale suburban growth and partisan change, facilitating migration into rural areas that were previously unoccupied and inaccessible to metropolitan commuters and workers.” In other words, the car and the infrastructure that enables it had a huge influence on the disparities that vex us today.»
RIP Mark Fisher. One of fhe biggest influences on me in my twenties. K-Punk was pretty much it for me.
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I owe essentially everything to Mark Fisher. In his writing, he taught me to think differently, not simply to find answers, but to ask better questions, to question the very frameworks in which questions are asked. This is the difference between a thinker like Fisher and someone like Jaron Lanier who has good intentions, who aims in the right direction but who ends up reproducing the exact same problems in his solutions, because the underlying paradigms remain unthought and unquestioned.
I remember around 2010 feeling very disillusioned, really trying to come to terms with the idea that there wasn’t a future any more, that the narrative of progress had collapsed, without of course thinking to question that narrative. Books by Lanier and Simon Reynolds (Retromania) really picked up on this feeling but didn’t seem to offer much in terms of hope, or anything beyond the false hope of silly band-aid solutions. They were however very successful in articulating the feeling of those times, translating very strong emotions into concepts, opening a clearing through which problems could at least be seen. Through Reynolds I discovered Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, and then his k-punk blog, and I found his analysis much more thoroughgoing, more satisfying in a sense despite his even darker prognosis. For me, Fisher was the gateway to a lot of other authors and types of thought.
Today we are of course reaping the consequences of those years, and there is a clear danger of falling into the abyss, and in ways when I think of the treatment of families at the border, or things like the Muslim ban we are already over the edge. Even if nothing else happens, these alone will continue to haunt us, far more so than the hauntings of failed dreams, very painful reminders of how deeply we have already fallen.
And yet, even through this I have an optimism I did not have in 2010. I see things I did not see back then — marginal practices — I often think of them according to Stephanie Wakefield’s “backloop strategies” (although they are not at all specifically the practices she has in mind, as she’s focusing specifically on climate change) — that can bring a radically different understanding of who we are, an understanding that must take hold if there is to be real and lasting political change.
At the same time, the horrors keep accumulating, so we must still fight on all fronts, fight even for temporary measures to limit the damage, even though we know such measures will be useless in the long run, because the horrors are very real, people are suffering greatly at this moment.
But for me the dilemma of conservation/acceleration (the “accelerationism debate”) simply must collapse and give way to the complete reconfiguration of the backloop. It is not a choice between the past that never was and the future that has already happened, but a radically new beginning that collapses the entire narrative in which past and future each showed up as such. The new beginning was something perhaps still unthought by Fisher at the time of his death, yet Fisher was most important for preparing the foundations in which one can open oneself to the possibility of such a beginning.
Ultimately, I see the role of the arts as critical in gathering and intensifying these practices and bringing forth a new world — that is to say, the new beginning, the new understanding — in which they can finally make sense and take hold. Because it is in the very nature of marginal practices that they seem either and for the most part 1) trivial, beneath consideration, justly neglected by the arts; 2) crazy or delusional, once again beyond consideration.
In fact, one mode already implies the other. Fisher already hints at this in his discussion of the weird and the eerie, especially his characterization of the eerie as a failure of presence or absence. We feel in fact something should be there, the thing that would save us, but nothing shows up. Nothing shows up because we do not yet have the clearing through which it can be seen. Likewise something perhaps is there, is felt, but we do not have means to expect it. One recalls how the Essenes or early Christians must have been considered, or even the heralds of the modern scientific worldview.
Indeed, these practices represent a complete break from what has come before, that yet no sense can be made of them. Not only do they fail to show up, they are continually endangered with oblivion precisely because of the current regime’s attempts to appropriate them, to make them define and justify themselves in terms of its conceptual oppositions. Sense must take the leap according to which such practices are thought from themselves. Only in art can such practices be gathered and intensified in precisely that manner which lets them be.
But by the artwork we must mean the arts in total, the entire domain in which we collectively participate — we don’t have single works like the Greek temple or the Chartes cathedral which in and through their presence establish a new understanding. Only our collective activity can prepare the way. And this activity of course bridges to the really existing marginal practices that are and still at this point must remain underground, must remain protected and enshrouded in their mystery, must be brought out only carefully and respectfully into the clearing established by the art work. To think at this point we can directly name things and appropriate them, this is already too easy a solution, history never works like this.
And where do we find these practices? We find them in that which is most near. We find them in that which has already been there, unnoticed, immanent to our very existence — in oral cultures, in stories handed down and reshaped over generations, as well as in the many new stories being told. In new stories that simply are, though we do not yet know what or why they are. For in the new beginning there is no why or wherefore. Not yet; a new understanding must come, and only then it projects itself back upon that which brought it forth – only then do we understand what we had been up to all along.
But we will not find the new beginning in anything that is a following-on from existing attempts at appropriation. We will not find anything that can be presently understood. We will certainly not find it in a subjectivist view of art as aesthetics or personal expression, only in art as that which brings forth worlds. For our part there is only simply being aware, each of us at an individual level, of the need for a new beginning, even as we fight on all fronts to stop so much of the carnage that has been brought by an understanding that can no longer sustain itself.
Food, water, housing, and transportation. Rich veins to mine for ideas about how to survive and thrive with compassion for the participants of all intertwined ecosystems.
Surely this is not quite what is meant by ecological thinking but: a tree makes art just by the fact of its existing. In the rings in its trunk telling the history of its existence, in the symmetric design of its leaves, in the pattern of its branches, in the grooves of its bark. It cannot help but create beauty, and from the strength of its work we have derived immeasurable benefit.
So too, I think, should we recognize art as central to existence—even in our messy, ego-clouded way, humans cannot help but create beauty and structure just by the fact of our existing.
I realize so far there’s no connection to the topic of democracy in what I wrote, but it does seem to be that a central part of the problem of democracy could be that of ego, greed.