Obama’s Next Trick — Pulling Rabbit From Hat!
In a truly laughable article, Arjun Appadurai gives us an explanation for Obama’s election — magic!
So the election of Barack is a magical thing in two distinct ways. It is awesome, historical, redemptive, and yes, transcendent too. But it is also magical in a much more serious way. It has been performed and produced by voting citizens at a moment when America and the world face risks of an enormous order. We have named these risks frequently in the media and the public sphere in the last few weeks: risks of total financial meltdown, of global warm-up, of war without end and terror without faces and sources. And our existing tools for risk management have failed miserably. Should we be surprised that the American electorate has rediscovered magic without knowing it? And that we have elected someone special to help us manage these risks and reduce our uncertainties? Religion may well have divided this electorate in familiar demographic ways (fundamentalists versus liberals, Catholic and Jews, versus Protestants and Hindus, preachers versus laymen), but magic has united it.
Coming next, Obama will magically make money disappear from your wallet!
The whole article reads like a professorial tome, as one might expect from a professor of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU. It’s filled with references to notable philosophers and authors (read: I’m smarter than you, look at how many people I can name!), and discussions of the battle between the Judeo-Christian tradition and the more mystical “magical” world. He even throws out references to the $700B bailout as a “magical” event — a thought I can partially agree with considering that it was performed by shamans in Washington who neither understand the causes and effects of their actions, but believe if they throw money at a problem, it will solve itself.
The professorial tone of the article attempts to lend an air of weight and consequence, of research and history, to what is nothing more than a love-in over Obama. It’s an attempt to glorify Obama by someone who has not quite learned that messiah-worship and government are a bad combination. The allusions to Dostoevsky and Max Weber are meant to obfuscate the author’s goal, which is a self-congratulatory pat on the back for an America who has engaged in a “transcendent” election — one he calls “magical.”
But it doesn’t change the facts. At best, Obama is going to be a fully human but very skilled technocrat, who will at least calmly and effectively manage the federal government. At worst, he’s going to be another Washington shaman, throwing money at problems he doesn’t understand. He’ll congratulate himself as a wise leader when a money-drop works, and likely blame greedy robber-baron capitalists when one doesn’t. There’s nothing magical about it.