Nine years already since 9/11. Almost two years since the election of Barack Obama to the US Presidency. What is the state of the world?
Every time we put gasoline in our cars, every time we buy any oil-based products, we are in fact helping (the Saudis, a bunch of Arab emirs, several tin pot strongmen in Africa and Asia, as well as a few others) to finance international terrorism. To some extent, we are emulating the decadence bound Romans in their concessions to the barbarians, who used the territory and the knowledge acquired from a scientifically and culturally more advanced civilization to ultimately destroy the empire. The result was the long, ignorant, superstitious, miserable night of the Middle Ages.
In Europe, the Renaissance lifted the Western regions towards the primacy of reason and experimentation over blind faith, the discovery of the world, the economic, scientific and cultural progress. Not so in the areas where the rights of the individual are still crushed by the dominant power structure, entrenched and aberrant social organizations based on holy books by ancient religious prophets (Abraham’s prolific and quarrelsome offspring), philosophers (Buddha, Confucius, Marx/Engels/Lenin), or just demented leaders like Mao, Smith of the Mormon angel, Hubbard and his Scientology aliens, or any other sprouts from the latest hallucinogenic rainfall.
As happened before in human history, the civilization's drawbacks are either forcibly brought up to date by emerging and ruthless powers (the survival of the fittest) or, if the forces of progress erode by complacency, they are ultimately destroyed by obscurantism and greed.
A small part of the world built painfully and over a long time a space of freedom, knowledge and development never attained before. With the all-encompassing globalization, the results are there for all to see… and to lust after. Of those outside the lands of plenty, there are two reactions. The earnest want to emulate that way of life, or jump geographic and political barriers to join it. The tortuous, those exploring the entrenched ignorance of their flock, the resentful retarded, they all wish to destroy what they perceive as a threat to themselves.
Enter Obama, a product of mixed races, mixed cultures, a likeable, eager and from all accounts honest man, who reaches the top of the western world. The intelligentsia and generally the thinking part of the population welcomed him. They think he will be capable of building bridges between civilizations, cultures, prejudices, and competing interests. However, they actually do not know their own real world and even less the rest of the world. Obama brought forward all the bigotry in America and elsewhere.
The Albatross has heard a Black-American friend’s snide remark that the President is only half black, meaning that a full black would never have been elected, a reminder of the Washington's black establishment that dwells on shades of skin color and harps on about the “red bones” enjoying a special status. The Albatross has heard an Arab-American professional acquaintance repeat the slur that Americans have became so helpless that they elected to lead them the descendant of a former slave (which is also factually untrue). The Albatross has heard a white American complain that Obama will sell the American dream for a socialist welfare state.
The grudging respect that the white man still encounters in the formerly colonised territories is a fact to take into account in any kind of international relations. As an anecdote, the Albatross once travelled to China, Japan and other asian countries at the invitation of an older and senior South Asian colleague, a top ranking international bureaucrat. Everywhere (airline counters, hotel desks, restaurants and worst, government offices) to the Albatross' embarrassment they would immediately assume that he was in charge, they would speak to him and ignore his colleague. Actually, when it was the case, they would also present him with the bills…
This is to say that very often the developed, largely secular, trying hard to be politically correct world, completely misses the reality out there. In Africa, Obama is expected to act as the tribal brother who succeeded and his expected to favour, support, and promote his kin, his people, his father’s nation and his ancestry’s continent. He cannot do so and is therefore increasingly dismissed by the street as a cast off. In the Middle East they try to hoodwink him at every corner, in the best carpetbagger’s tradition. In Asia, the most race conscious region on Earth, they often speak of him as being too dark skinned to be taken seriously. It is unfair, it is primitive, it is stupid and it is despairing. It is the reality we all live in.
Any doubts? Look at the way the Chinese behave in international affairs. Fortunately, they have their own internal demons to conjure. A country getting rich on the back of slavish labour and a manipulated currency, for the benefit of a few party and military bosses and their business associates, is a social volcano gathering strength.
The Obama travails reflect the challenges of our time. Too much was expected from him, he cannot but disappoint. A large number of the human population still puts more faith in a providential saviour than in individual, collective and sustained effort. Poor or distorted education, helplessness, indolence are still too common. Either it is still time to wake up and fight back together in a constructive manner, or it is too late and the existing few oases of science, technology, culture and freedom, could be fleeting Camelots.