Yesterday, CNN/IBN conducted an sms poll on “Who is India’s Obama?” The preferred names were Rahul Gandhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav & Narendra Modi!! I have my reservations about all three of them. Coincidentally, the last name was already slated as the Obama of India in an exchange I had with a co-visitor of a particular blog I read regularly. The idea was so scary that I ran for my life!
I suppose the answer to that poser is derived from one’s perception of the President –Elect of the USA.
So, what does Obama represent?
The issues that were hotly debated in the US election campaign had no role in shaping my take on Obama. Like that of my compatriots, mine also was an outsider’s academic interest in the fresh and new star that rose in the American horizon, and dominated the imagination of America for over a year.
I suppose experiencing Obama as a voter is very different from watching him from across the seven seas from an Asian country which has one thing in common with the USA – a fierce possessiveness about its democracy.
And this is not all. Many factors inform the individual’s perception of a world leader, and these factors differ from person to person.
As a person whose academic engagement with the political fact of the Empire was more than two decades old, I reacted the minute Obama's victory was confirmed with the comment ,“The Empire strikes back”. Knowing that I had a bee in the bonnet about this issue, my husband smiled indulgently, but a minute later said, “Come to think of it, you are right”. Call it colonial hangover, if you wish (all Indians are afflicted by it but not many admit it). The race superiority theory which is axiomatic to the Imperial discourse about the white destiny to rule and civilize, had been exploded. Jesse Owens did it some decades ago on a smaller scale; but Obama’s victory had an important difference. Owens' was a one man’s effort. The just conducted US election was an emphatic statement of a nation, which brings me to my next point.
Colonization is a dual process. It involves the colonizer and the colonized. Decolonization too, similarly, is a dual process. Both the victim and the perpeterator have to be cured of the colonial complexes. Otherwise decolonisation is not complete or comprehensive. Thus it is that I claim that the people of the US released themselves from the psychological bondage of the imperial rhetoric by giving a resounding victory to Obama – it was a deafeningly loud acknowledgement that colour is but skin deep. It was a major step in the intellectual and psychological decolonisation of America. The effect was cathartic. Once a nation unloads an oppressive burden from its mind, the peace that follows is a near bliss, and an atmosphere charged with positive energy is created, which, in this case, should prove to be the ideal soil for the Great American Dream to strike roots in its unpolluted form . We in India share that joy with the people of the USA and wish them a fast recovery from the economic crisis under their new President.
The long and short of it is, it was the decolonization of an imperial people that was evidenced by the election . (The nature of the US colonialism is not the same as Britain’s and the other European colonial powers, but can be considered under the same umbrella despite the difference).
Now to come to the question of Obama.
He is a person who has his finger on the pulse of the nation ripe for change, and ashamed of the big bully image created by successive administrations.
Equally important, he recognized the fact that America has a CONSCIENCE, which had been lying dormant for a long long time. During his election campaign, Obama had the courage to awaken that collective conscience, and transform that force into a concerted clamour for change. The change was bound to be painful. It was bound to call for sacrifices and adjustments in a consumerist society. He realized that the people of the America were willing to take up the challenge if they had an honest man to lead from the front.
That man was Barak Obama.
And he caught the imagination of the people by using a rhetoric outside the existing one.
The success of Obama lies in his diagnostic acumen which enabled him to detect the ills of the American polity, in his courage to address these ills and inspire the nation, particularly the youth, to take up the challenge.
That’s my take on Barak Obama. I had to have a theory on what is Barak Obama in order to decide on India’s Obama, which is what my next post is about.
Guess who my choice is?
India’s Obama has to be honest, courageous, charismatic, a person with national appeal, therefore not parochial. She/he has to have fire in the belly, should be a humanist with a forgiving heart, and should unite the nation, salvage the people’s faith in the democratic systems, inspire the people groaning under the poor governance of self seeking politicians, boldly address the class, caste and creed divides. She/he should inspire the nation into craving for moral uprightness.
There comes a time in the life of every nation when it craves for change. When a Messiah comes with a promise of change, the nation will embrace him warmly. We saw it happen in the US. India too is ready. But who is that Messiah?
I appeal to my blog visitors to respond with their choice before my next post. Would be nice if you could get your blog circle also to respond.