A Better Dream
"To attack or not to attack, that is the question…"
The other day, I was reading an expose against Carlos Castenada.
The more we know about Castenada, the uglier the picture becomes: a man whose teachings inspired a generation apparently became lost in his own lies … lies that may even have been relatively innocent at first … and some of those who followed him into his lies also became lost. Yet the justifiable outrage directed at Castenada seems to miss one key point at times: in order to believe that his writings were literally ‘true’, you had to want to believe it pretty badly. Castenada’s writing constantly raises the question ‘what is real’, which can be taken as a bit of a clue, and then there’s the quality of Castenada’s writing, which just isn’t credible as straightforward biography.
Like Carlos Castenada, Barack Obama has beguiled a generation with a dream. Like Castenada, he offers himself as a Gateway to a new (‘change’) world – Obama’s campaign symbol is particularly striking in this regard …
… and like Castenada, Obama has a fictive mentor, Martin Luther King, whose ‘prophecy’ ("I have a dream") he positions himself to ‘fulfill’. As Paul Street, in particular, …
… has consistently pointed out, Obama’s dream (like Castenada’s) has been a lie, and if Castenada beguiled some unfortunate and vulnerable people into suicide, Obama seems to have beguiled a nation towards collective disaster.
It would be easier to understand the Obama Delusion, what Glen Ford eloquently decries as "Obama’laid" intoxification …
… had it been a noble delusion. No doubt, every one of us must believe in a dream in order to shape, form and sustain our lives. We must convince ourselves of the reality of something not tangible to us, something that we hope to bring closer to reality, because of our determination. One person’s dream might be a peaceful family. Another person’s dream might be a Peaceful World, but it’s hard to live without some guiding vision. Perhaps if Obama’s vision had been closer to Martin Luther King than to Ronald Reagan, one could have understood the almost desperate attachment to Obama’s dream from much of the ‘Left’. Castenada at least drew from the well of wisdom literature to create his pastiche; Obama drew mostly from the much shallower well of conventional political wisdom, and as he drew closer to the presidency, and then finally entered into the oval office, he increasingly shredded the Obamian web of illusions faster than he wove it. Many of his followers would surely have sobered up quickly, except that they seemed to be driven by the exigencies of the narrow two year political cycle, and by constantly encouraged fears of the Right Wing (the Tea Party has been Obama’s best political friend).
Perhaps much like the cult followers of Castenada, who were separated from their support networks (such as family) and encouraged to be dependent on their cult leader, much of the Left were encouraged to feel dependent on Obama and the Democratic Party. Obama increasingly failed to inspire, but where would we be without him? Where would we turn for leadership? Even if we were unsatisfied, there was nowhere else we could go. And maybe if we just believed harder, supported more, tried harder….. maybe the dream could become real after all.
As the election approaches, Obama’s supporters seem to be whipping themselves up into a frenzy of Belief. A friend shocked me the other day by sending me an email rejoicing that Obama had brought PEACE – she was referring to Obama’s bogus ‘withdrawal’ from Iraq. This delusional e-blast came from someone I generally regard as sensitive, thoughtful and even wise; yet, in the face of Obama’s Iron Determination to achieve Global Domination by any means necessary, she somehow saw Peace. She later explained to me that she just needed to feel good about something to avoid feeling depressed.
I suppose she put her finger on the distinction between a good dream and a bad dream. When the purpose for having the dream is no longer to inspire, but rather to enhance comforting denial, then even a good dream has soured from good to bad. Unfortunately, with Obama, the path from hope to denial started practically the day after the election in 2008, when Obama selected Emanuel as his chief of staff. That alone put the writing clearly on the wall, and should have been seen as a provocation to the Left, a challenge, a sign that a hard OPPOSITIONAL struggle lay ahead, if we wanted to give life to the progressive vision for which Obama may have acted as a placeholder. But instead, rationalizations came like a flood, drowning out dissent. The choice of Rahm showed Obama’s saavy, one heard, since Rahm ‘knew how to get things done’, and it said nothing about the direction Obama’s policies would take, since supposedly Emanuel wouldn’t have anything to do with policy.
Most seemed to drink this Denial cocktail. Perhaps some drank tentatively at first, but as the months went by, gulping from the Cocktail of Denial became deeper and deeper. Obama’s pandering to Israel was, we were told, a principled confrontation;
Obama’s increasingly aggressive behavior towards Iran was, we were told, "engagement"; Obama’s support for Bush’s police state policies, which turned aberration into firm precedent, was, we were told, ‘a step in the right direction'; Obama’s gargantuan giveaways to Wall Street were, we were told, going to trickle down to Main Street; Obama’s Health-Insurance-Industry-written ‘health reform’ was, we were told, the best thing since FDR. On and on it went. We took one drink from the Obama’laid cup, then another from the Right Wing Fear cup, and then back to the Obama’laid cup, and on and on. We just can’t seem to get drunk enough.
Well, I’m no longer willing to believe it when Dems tell me to vote for the Democrats yet again, because this time we really, really, really will change take the party back from the DLC. I’m not listening to that Siren Song anymore, to that Lorelie. If real Change We Need is going to come in America, it is going to come from the fact that over three quarters of us no longer have faith in our political system and half don’t even have enough faith to vote; most of the alienated folks lean left, even if many do not self-identify as left. There is a movement waiting to happen. If one has a Dem to vote for who is a real progressive (and it’s important to be choosy), vote for them. Otherwise, we need to start to put all our energy into building a real Third Way.
Let’s dream a truly noble dream this time, and sustain it with all of the love we have for the idea of a better future. The human race and this planet deserve a better dream.