Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obama - What's In It For Us Then?

Dinidu asked a great question here, what will the election of Barrack Obama mean to Sri Lankans?

He wants to know how things will change in the Paradise Isle because of Obama's election, a valid and interesting question that can and probably will be debated for many hours. Ultimately it's only time that will give us the real answer, but we can have some fun until then speculating and attempting to prove each other wrong. This is my attempt.

One of the things Dinidu says in response to my comment, in which I ask who said Mr O's election would change things in Lanka, is that

"I haven’t seen people getting this excited over our local elections. Facebook status, chat status and everything."

His election is a signal of hope and optimism from the American people to the rest of the world. It's a sign that they, or the ones who voted for Obama, want change and they want it now.

It's fair to say that the direct impact of a new US President will hit the UK harder, quicker and bigger than it will hit Sri Lanka. Over here we live so much in the economic and cultural shadow of the US that it's obvious, even though they don't actually have culture there.

Frankly I don't think Obama will have much of a direct impact on Sri Lanka. He's not going to "invade" the island to sort things out nor is he likely to do that much in other ways to help achieve peace and stability there. My feeling is that no Sri Lankans are going to stroll around with the belief that Obama's going to change things on a local level in the island we all feel so passionately about.

But I think Dinidu and all others who ask the "what's in it for me?" question are missing the point. It's not about how he'll lower the price of bread in Sri Lanka or bring inflation down to two figures. That won't happen until the people that run Lanka PLC start to put the Company ahead of their own interests.

It's all about the feelgood factor. It's about hope and opportunity. I think that's what all the Facebook status lines (mine included) and the various blog posts are all about.

Obama's got it all to do now, winning the election was probably the easy bit. But it's such an indicator that if enough people want change then change can happen. It's such a message that hope can be found and optimism and good feelings can move and change things, that I'm content to drum my way through my days, weeks and months with the knowledge that good things will happen.

I don't know about you but I feel as if there are two groups I can belong to. I can be cynical, ask what's in it for me and think that things are crap, or I can feel positive and optimistic and really believe that good change will and can happen.

I know which group will make me feel happier.

Just like a certain Mr Bush.

It's a no brainer.


Gerald said...

If anything Obama's less pro-war and "terrorist hunter"-ish than Bush, so wouldn't that mean less military aid and less "Support" from them?

I was too young to notice any change from Clinton to Bush, but was there any major change when going from dems to the republicans? Although this time, it's the other way around.

And sure, he's black, but where else is he "different" from any other democratic candidate? We put too much stock in politicians...

But what do I know? I don't even live there... :/

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Gerald - thanks for your comment. I agree that Obama is less "pro war and terrorist hunter" than Bush and that therefore it might mean less military aid and "support".

However, less support for the military and aggressive approach mught just mean that the GOSL might choose a different approach, which might work. Just a radical though, I know!

Time will surely tell though.

Jerry said...

But will it really change the minds of the people who are driving our own little terrorist hunting trip?

They've neared the kill, if we're to believe what the papers say, and are unlikely to return home with no prize. They'll get something, be it a lowly duck, or a bigass bear.

Time will tell, but most aren't that patient.


Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Jerry - Dunno!

But, in a country where the papers are largely state controlled, in a situation where it's dangerous to one's safety to criticise the wrong people, I think believing what is said in the media might not be the wisest path to take. Not that Sri Lanka is such a country of course.

Electra said...

Thank you for that. It's sad that people can't get happy about anything anymore unless there's something in it for them. It's always about 'what's in it for ME?' Me me me. Can we just no longer be happy for the joy of others? Can we not be happy for what it means to do those it DOES affect?

I just don't see how someone cannot understand what this means. Not just for America, but for the world. It's momentous. It's historic. And there may not be something in it for ME, but I can be happy that the way millions of people in the world's most powerful country are thinking is changing.

It's not that he is black: sure, we can only imagine what it means to African-Americans, whom after centuries of marginalization, to have themselves represented as citizens of that country; with equal opportunity and power. It's that he's DIFFERENT. He's young, and black, and pro-peace, and liberal: the exact opposite of the usual American President. He's different. Than them all. He's done things like no one has ever done them before. He is unconventional. He's unusual. And maybe that's what everyone needs: a fresh perspective.

If we can't be happy for the happiness of our fellow Humans, if we can't be happy that a truly momentous shift in direction has taken place here and now, then what do we have?

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Electra - thanks for that comment, long time no see!

I agree fully. Some people go through life asking what's in it for me, others don't. I'm content to be in the former group of people.

A Virile Nagalingam said...

He did have a short meeting with Vaiko, probably not cognizant of Vaiko's political career, but SL is probably too peripheral to his worldview to actually merit a thought or two.

Dilmah did just get a distribution channel to my neck of the woods, so anything could happen.

A Virile Nagalingam said...

There is actually 'high culture' over here, just not in places like Florida and the western states which have grown in terms of population only in the past 50-60 years.

Of course this 'high culture' was brought over by Europeans which leads the 'cultured' being labeled anti-american.

ddm said...

virile nagalingam - obama actually mentioned SL in a speech sometime late last year in the context of a "vicious conflict" as a result of two peoples failing to accommodate one another's differences (probably missing the point) - so maybe we're not that peripheral after all (hooray). but you're right, that was probably one of his thought or two. what is more likely to affect us is a general increase in power to democrats overall - and if chaps like Leahy get their act together, there maybe some real impacts on us in terms of military assistance (which means more equipment from cambodia etc. - RD i seriously doubt GoSL will change strategy if the states decides to stop sending military equip)

anyway, the states have better things to worry about right now, so some part of the LKR 200 Bn will probably buy some US goodies.

who else but me said...

RD totally agree with you. you know if there is anything in it for us - it is the lesson. particulary for us, the youth, to actually believe that a vote matters. i know so many of my own friends have opted to not vote at our own elections and always just merely bitched about all that is wrong with politics and the country without even trying - if nothing else, to atleast go and vote for someting, even if the choices tend to feel choiceless. vote for the lesser of the two evils,at least! it's so easy to say i dont want to get involved in politics. how can we not get involved? politics affects the meals we have at home, our bus ride to school or work, our pensions, hell even our social life.the truth is i hav been guilty of my fair of cynicism and lately i was a walking corpse of negativity, hopelesness and i-hate-the-world-ism (read my older blog posts, and you'll see what i mean). but this election, and more so Obama's words, his speeches, have inspired me on a deeply personal level. to hope not just for the possibility that i can change the presant circumstances of my own life but also that even we can one day get over all this ethnic politics and take SL to a new era, a new way of doin things and thinking. so i guess that's what's in it for me. and what's in it for us. inspiration. and nothing good ever happens in this world without people or a person being inspired. i guess the likes of dinidu will probably consider all this bull crap but its their loss. cynicism does no good, except cause a couple of laughs every now and then. i know which group will make me happier too.

T said...

'who else but me' summed up beautifully what i was about to say. i subscribe to obama's politics of hope, and i know im inspired to do more, to BE more. for myself and my country. i think that's a positive change. it is for me.

Gerald said...

He IS a big change from Bush, but what of the earlier presidents?

I'm not saying it's the same old routine, but come on, most people think Jesus was elected.

Gerald said...

-A notable mention would be Clinton. Young, "different".

Erandi said...

I couldn't possibly agree more with you and with Electra's comment on this one!!