The Jan. 20 Obama Inauguration: World Significance

Published on 13th January 2009

“The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. But both are the refuge of political and economic opportunists.” - Ernest Hemingway




There is one change that is certain to be acknowledged by the world. An African-American, whom we like to call endearingly, a brother, has made it to the White House. It sends a powerful symbolic message of change by registering the first ever sheer break from the usual pattern of presidential selection in the annals of American history. This change is real irrespective or independent of whether the African-American president succeeds or fails to make the presidency a force for change both inside the USA or the way America relates both to the rest of the world and mother nature.


However, a substantive change comes when the institutional and policy lock-ins that have misdirected American power time and time again specially after the post World War II and Post Cold War periods can be re-orientated to drive world politics and economics to modes of global governance free from hubris, arrogance and the pursuit of solo interest to that of valorising the welfare of both people and nature globally. If the militarist course is not reversed, if the power of example does not supplant the example of power(W.J.Clinton), if the double standard and hypocrisy continues supporting dictatorships considered pro-American or pro-supportive of the sitting American administration whilst opposing others taken as unfriendly, then we are back to square one. The change of election time’s talk becomes just that- a lot of talk. Substantive change comes if America understands and becomes confident also that it can eat out of everyone’s hands, if only it builds its relationships with the rest of the world by promoting equitable and fair systems of global governance with multilateral consultation, deliberation and wisdom abandoning the easy and facile triumphalism from the sort of Fukuyama’ type of End of History pronouncement that followed the demise of the former USSR!. The opportunity exists to make a difference by changing course, less triumphalist, more collaborative and team building and team playing to make the world a safer place for all now and future generations so that who becomes champions is peace and security for all on earth.


The challenge US leadership faces is exciting. The stakes are high. If decisions that make a real change come, the world will be happy with America and may even welcome American leadership without any question voluntarily. America does not need to exert itself to lead. America will be invited. If the decisions to continue the status quo prevail, we are back to the drawing board. World disorder will be exacerbated rather than abetted.


With a great anticipation of the coming inauguration of Brother Barrack Obama, we dare offer some thoughts for his leadership to consider doing to refresh America’s position for the good of the world for both America and the world’s futures and wellbeing.


The Historic US Election of 2008


In November, 2008 the whole world was witness to history having been made in America. A major national election after having been fought for two years brought a consequential victory to an African-American providing the election a world-civilisation turn and epochal significance. The debate was electric. The process was tough. The road was tortuous. Lo and be hold, the final result came as a redeeming brightest star illuminating America by sending a message to all with universal spirit of possibility and hope to the rest of the world never seen before in living memory! It may not be an exaggeration if indeed people say it is the second most important historic re-birth for the USA as a vital and invigorated nation equal to perhaps the first birth of the USA as a free and democratic republic in 1776! The election vindicated African-Americans having come from the depths of enslavement to reach the mountain top and the White House. It was a long journey. It was not given to them on a sliver platter. They fought for it and succeeded after so many years! Finally African-Americans have made it and broken through many hurdles to reach this height!


When members hailing from the most oppressed communities reach the pinnacle such as the White House, it is not only a victory for them alone, it is also redemption for their tormentors and oppressors. More importantly, it is so liberating of everyone touched by the episode, it is as if the whole of humanity has attained a civilisation shift of world historic proportion. That is what took place in America, making this great nation even greatest! America can be justifiably proud for reaching this threshold and breaking out of all the limiting restrictions of human possibilities to attain this level of civilisation.


Reminiscing SOBU- Student Organisation for Black Unity


Some of us as college students in the USA in the 70s were members of the Student Organisation for Black Unity (SOBU). We used to travel to the South and spoke on the radio and on college campuses that were predominantly black to come to the North Eastern USA universities like Brown, Columbia, Harvard and Princeton Universities. Universities such as Columbia University used to give scholarships to attract black students and a number were able to make use of the opportunity to enhance their education. Other Ivy League universities probably had similar scholarship programmes. The idea was to attract the talented black students to attend America’s top Ivy League research universities that can equip students with the intellectual power and confidence to aim high and reach the best attainable positions in both the private and public worlds in America.


An African-America Family in the White House


We now have an African-American intellectual family that made use of the best Ivy League research universities education to prepare them to lead the USA hopefully into a new orientation and new civilisation. Having come this far, everyone’s hope is that they will do everything in their power to change the militaristic and imperialistic system that has hurt America so much into a civil and socially orientated system that can serve both the USA and the world with vast promise and opportunity. The odds are that the system is more likely to change the occupants of the White House than they are able to change it from a military-industrial & Wall Street, Federal Reserve –Treasury-Corporate Lawyers’ Complex to a social-health-education-nature and safe energy and climate friendly complex!


But militarism is not wealth in the end. It is wealth accumulated through the means of death. Health is wealth and life. Education is wealth and learning. People who train and are healthy work and create wealth. Nature preserved and not treated as infinite sink is the source of wealth and knowledge. Knowledge is productive power that drives a wealthy, healthy, educated and, humane, moral, just and fair society, people and nature. Making wealth through lending and borrowing via banks, and selling and killing through armaments and the military is immoral and unsustainable, and the world should outlive it in the 21st century. Look what the Banks did in 1929! They triggered the first great depression. Look at what the Banks are doing to the USA in 2008 and 2009! They started the on going global recession which may turn to become the Second World Depression. There must be the intellectual courage to change death into life, ignorance into education, ill being into wellness, debt, credit default, and paper that the banks circulate into asset and innovation that people can live with reasonably well.


Changing the military industry into civil defence conversion will not be easy. The transition will be treacherous. We can all try to understand the enormous challenges and try to be supportive and not pre-judge the current elected African–American president, if this goes beyond his term to refashion. All can give him the benefit of doubt and can show patience to understand and allow him to make the mistakes he is likely to make, but we hope that the main thrust of change is to change the foundation of a military economy into a peace-promoting economy. When that is secure a real change will come both to the USA and the rest of the world.


Who had thought it was possible for African-Americans to reach the White House? If such changes are possible, it is also possible to change the structure of the American economy from the military to civil economy. Such a change will also change American global politics for the good of the world. Let us hope America’s example to do good to the world through its ideals and deeds is the power it wields preferentially over other resources and weapons at its disposal. Let us hope it stops projecting globally its militarism as an example of its power over the rest of the world- to paraphrase slightly differently one of the inspiring campaign speeches we heard from former president Clinton. be continued


By Mammo Muchie,

Chairperson of NES currently NRF/DST research professor, IERI, TUT, Pretoria, South Africa and part-time professor and coordinator of DIIPER, Aalborg University, Denmark

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