Food for Thought
Lessons from Wisconsin
Port Huron Turns 50
Outraged Over Atrocities
Edward S. Herman
The Arab Spring
Libya, Africa, and AFRICOM
May Day 2012
Taking on Methyl Iodide
EDUCATING WITH MUSIC
Books, Rhymes, Life
The Obama Syndrome
Do No Harm
Ten Economic Crises
Victory for Colombian Students
A Drone World
Advertisements You'll Never See Again
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The Obama Syndrome
An interview with Tariq Ali
I have no animosity towards people who supported and voted for President Obama. This prevailing logic of supporting the lesser-than-two-evils, fitting for an era of diminished expectations, is the most important political resource of the Democratic Party and the typical cop-out for its “progressive” supporters. What will finally deliver a deathblow to the logic of lesser evil-ism? What’s the tipping point for disillusioned progressives? If giving trillions to Wall Street or assassinating American citizens without due process isn’t extreme enough, then what is? Maybe we’ll find out in Obama’s second term. For those who don’t want to wait that long, a brief conversation with Tariq Ali should do the trick. Tariq Ali is a prolific author, journalist, novelist, historian, and veteran activist. His most recent book is The Obama Syndrome.
Can you describe what you mean by the Obama Syndrome?
A political disease. An ailment that afflicts even the most intelligent politicians—those desperate to enter the White house whatever the financial and political price they have to pay. Politics these days is little more than concentrated economics. No alternatives to the neo-liberal system are permitted except the State is encouraged to bail out the very rich and the rich. The Obama syndrome is a sensational demonstration of this fact—a mixed-race president and his black family enter the White House. The symbolism is important, but symbols often disappear rapidly as the rigors of everyday life and politics intervene. Then people see that politicians—whatever their race or gender—must be judged on the basis of what they do.
What’s the role of mainstream progressives in perpetuating the messianic delusion of President Obama?
They’re desperate. They like to think “anyone but Bush” and when the anyone, give or take a few token measures, essentially carries on like his predecessor, many mainstream progressives go into denial mode. They blind themselves to the reality. When Jeffrey Sachs criticizes Obama’s new budget from the “left” then the self-styled progressives look very stupid.
What’s your take on the logic of lesser evilism, the kneejerk response for defending one’s allegiance to Obama and the Democrats in general? What does this say about Americans’ political imagination?
The traditional politicians of the
What has been its effect on the chances for social change in the
Bad. Very bad. To get trapped in the dilemma as to whether Obama will fight better wars and torture people more “humanely” than Romney or some other Republican is foolish. When you accept the battleground of the center you get lost.
Some would argue Obama can get away with more than a Republican president because of his PR skills and the middle-class liberal propensity for hypocrisy and self-deception. It seems inconceivable that Bush and Cheney could have passed NDAA or claimed the right to assassinate American citizens without massive popular outcry. What do you think?
This is certainly the case. One can even imagine Senator Obama jumping up and down in manufactured rage denouncing these assaults on the Constitution.
How does Occupy fit into this picture? Do you agree that Obama and the Democrats are the biggest threat to the movement in terms of being co-opted and channeling that energy back into electoral politics?
The Occupy movement is important precisely because it grew out of disenchantment with Obama. I’ve been arguing that a vital next step must be a Charter for Democratic and Social Rights that can be used to build strong bases against mainstream politics in every city. This means an agreed, minimum political program whose aim is to include rather than exclude people.
It seems that a massive coordinated departure from the arena of partisan electoral politics and into the arena of movement politics is the most obvious course of action for dismantling
I agree totally, but movement politics on its own can disappear like a whirlwind does. A foundation for something that lasts must be laid now.
What’s the cure for the Obama Syndrome? Is it much different from what’s needed to restore meaning to the American political system itself?
No. The two objectives are, in fact, the same.
Collin Harris is a freelance writer and activist based in Portland,
Collin Harris is a freelance writer and activist based in Portland,
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://yeacamp.org/.