Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Party like it's...

1789, was my suggestion to the lads. This earned a grumble of "what about 1861..." from someone surrounded by Obamamania. In any case, we should note that in Kenya, they're partying like it's
time immemorial.


Charles Henry said...

For the sake of any university students who may be reading your post, we should explain that the reference to "1789" is to the beginning of the French Revolution, while the "1861" date is in reference to the start of the American Civil War...

Dag said...

Truepeers' note today, "Let's party like it's 1789 had me laughing till I cried. But soon I realized I wasn't laughing. What a travesty of our brilliant revolution. The wheel, as noted above, does turn. Turn, turn, turn.

I'll chime in, metallically, with the slogan to come in the Palin period: "Let's party like it's 1792."

truepeers said...

Things turn Dag, but it's not a closed circle, more like an ever-expanding spiral. Complicating the picture, the spiral is a turbulent flow: not all the water rushes straight downstream: much gets caught in pools, whirls, and back channels.

But the greater force of history is unstoppable, from sheer necessity. There is no real going back, short of complete human self-destruction. Obama has to come to terms with a reality in which the fruits of modernity can only be/must needs be sustained by free people who are not destroyed by taxation and regulation. Obama can increase the turbulence but he can't turn back the waters indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

I can’t resist jumping into the historical comparison game.

The current event is an election. The 1861 date to which your co-worker refers is the outbreak of a civil war. It seems like the more appropriate civil-war era comparison would be the 1860 election of Lincoln. The current stakes, of course, are not nearly as large. [As a side point, Obama’s victory was considerably more convincing than Lincoln’s (in terms of % of popular vote)].

I’m weary of the 1789 comparison. Obama is far too conventional to be portrayed as a revolutionary. But if we’re going to make fun comparisons to revolutionary moments, I’d prefer 1776. Sure, there is no contemporary independence movement going on (the secession of the states wasn’t much of a revolution anyway). ’76, however, was a significant moment of change that was undertaken to recover traditional and inalienable rights. A conservative revolution, to stretch both words a bit. And it was a patriotic revolt against the unjust and oppressive rule of a tyrant named George. Those parallels I like. So party like it is ’76.


Dag said...

Oh, our history is pretty shaky, friend. 1776 was a revolution of individualists and people who valued privacy against those who refused Modernity in favor of privilege and entitlement and stasis, a losing game 1786 was at the beginning a melange of interests united against the same reactionary forces, but in effect was the beginning of European populist totalitarianism that evolved into Communism, Fascism, and neo-feudalist generic fascism, the latter, the statist reaction of Obama being too close to '89 to ignore.

But there is populism and there is populism. History doesn't repeat itself, but people repeat themselves. Let half the people today party like it's 1789; let them storm the Bastille of "racism" and unlock and free some filthy old de Sade; and let them cheer in the streets. And let them beware of driving us underground, those of us who are truly friends of the people. Yes, the Ayerses and Dorhns, the Sebottendorffs, Eckarts, and Liebenfels, the Darres and the wandervogel will have their time in the sun. But this is an ugly turn of the time, and it is against our nation to impose the French Revolution on us, even by popular election. The people voted, and they have wht they asked for. If tht turns out to be something other than what they like, then the people will speak. Those in positions of power will listen or face committees of public safety and friends of the people. Government is at the sufferance of the people. If they ignore that, then we'll party like it's 1792, and I will enjoy laughing. Till then, I concede defeat.

truepeers said...


I'm not sure this is a great moment of change; i think Obama's rhetoric will eventually fail.

Given your youth, are you familiar with that iconic pop star of Obama's youth, formerly known as Prince? He had a song, party like it's 1999... so there's a joke in using Prince, who acted like a demi-God, to symbolize Obama.

The thing about Obama's campaign is that while he is not really a native product of African-American culture, it is only someone with his relative "blackness" who could have made of himself the kind of icon he has become. No white politician can any longer make of himself such a cult of personality. It would never be accepted but deeply resented. It's simply unthinkable in this day and age. Yet Obama's cult and his personal past were beyond criticism in the media.

So in many respects Obama is not a symbol of change, but a throwback: a sign of nostalgia for an age that ended, at the latest, with Kennedy, and only then because he was assassinated (note the symbolic debt in the phenomenon of Obama assassination porn). Obama is, I think, a 19thC. (or as you suggest, last 18thC.) figure, a romantic idea, kind of a figure for a national liberation wrestled from out of the old world empires. A secular Prince.

It seems that Black America felt it its due to have such a symbol in its history. It did not want simply to go forward with the first Black president being not a guy playing demi-God but just some ordinary, experienced, accomplished (and hence variously wounded and humbled) politician. A truly great, because humble and wise man like Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court is treated as an "Uncle Tom", while the much less impressive Obama is the symbol of some purely symbolic accomplishment.

It's sad to my mind because Obama probably can't be a liberating figure. He is not actually living in the 19thC and his symbolism is at odds with the need to usefully symbolize reality as it exists today. African-AMericans don't need a nation maker in the romantic vein, they simply need the encouragement to become less enamored of the idea that politicians and government can take the lead in their salvation. No one really knows what Obama's change because it is not growing out of a truly democratic process of self-rule; the people who voted for him don't expect him to take up their issues. They are waiting to learn what "their" issues are. They have not yet taken ownership of their government. They are still looking to it to provide the key. They remain marginal to the Prince.

Anonymous said...

The ’76 comparison is both fun and pretty much useless. As is the 1789comparison. America has always been fairly disconnected from the flow of continental history so I prefer to keep the comparisons domestic. Dag: your bold critiques of the ‘liberated’ mob are noted. I will grab my musket and defend the Bastille.

The Prince reference went by me. Amsuing though. The concern with black identity and Obama’s potential does miss the point of the election for most people. This isn’t all about Obama. This is about the governance of the nation for the past eight years. That’s what people were voting on. If Bush had been competent, if the economy hadn’t tanked, if the wars were going fine, we’d be talking about the prospects of Bush’s handpicked successor. Things are screwed up. King George failed. A revolt has occurred. I appreciate that you folks are trying to be sensitive to history. Be sure not to leave out the events of this millennium.


Dag said...

NA., I found that particularly witty. Beyond that, of course, you're so far wrong I can't begin a critique. Show up for coffee sometime and you'll get at least the Reader's Digest version.

Yalla, Dag.

truepeers said...

I don't think there is any doubt this was a George Derangement Syndrome vote; however, that alone does not explain why Prince Obama was the successful alternative .