[WSF-Discuss] Naomi Klein on Obamafandland

peter waterman p.waterman at inter.nl.net
Mon Apr 20 09:57:52 CDT 2009


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  A Lexicon of Disappointment


    Lookout


    *By* Naomi Klein <http://www.thenation.com/directory/bios/naomi_klein>

This article appeared in the May 4, 2009 edition of The Nation. 
<http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090504>

<http://www.thenation.com/directory/bios/naomi_klein>

All is not well in Obamafanland, as disenchanted supporters entertain 
the possibility that he is not, in fact, going to save the world.

Whatever the last straw, a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are 
starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, 
going to save the world if we all just hope really hard.

This is a good thing. If the superfan culture that brought Obama to 
power is going to transform itself into an independent political 
movement, one fierce enough to produce programs capable of meeting the 
current crises, we are all going to have to stop hoping and start 
demanding.

The first stage, however, is to understand fully the awkward in-between 
space in which many US progressive movements find themselves. To do 
that, we need a new language, one specific to the Obama moment. Here is 
a start.

*Hopeover*. Like a hangover, a hopeover comes from having overindulged 
in something that felt good at the time but wasn't really all that 
healthy, leading to feelings of remorse, even shame. It's the political 
equivalent of the crash after a sugar high. Sample sentence: "When I 
listened to Obama's economic speech my heart soared. But then, when I 
tried to tell a friend about his plans for the millions of layoffs and 
foreclosures, I found myself saying nothing at all. I've got a serious 
hopeover."

*Hoper coaster*. Like a roller coaster, the hoper coaster describes the 
intense emotional peaks and valleys of the Obama era, the veering 
between joy at having a president who supports safe-sex education and 
despondency that single-payer healthcare is off the table at the very 
moment when it could actually become a reality. Sample sentence: "I was 
so psyched when Obama said he is closing Guantánamo. But now they are 
fighting like mad to make sure the prisoners in Bagram have no legal 
rights at all. Stop this hoper coaster--I want to get off!"

*Hopesick*. Like the homesick, hopesick individuals are intensely 
nostalgic. They miss the rush of optimism from the campaign trail and 
are forever trying to recapture that warm, hopey feeling--usually by 
exaggerating the significance of relatively minor acts of Obama decency. 
Sample sentences: "I was feeling really hopesick about the escalation in 
Afghanistan, but then I watched a YouTube video of Michelle in her 
organic garden and it felt like inauguration day all over again. A few 
hours later, when I heard that the Obama administration was boycotting a 
major UN racism conference, the hopesickness came back hard. So I 
watched slideshows of Michelle wearing clothes made by ethnically 
diverse independent fashion designers, and that sort of helped."

*Hope fiend*. With hope receding, the hope fiend, like the dope fiend, 
goes into serious withdrawal, willing to do anything to chase the buzz. 
(Closely related to hopesickness but more severe, usually affecting 
middle-aged males.) Sample sentence: "Joe told me he actually believes 
Obama deliberately brought in Summers so that he would blow the bailout, 
and then Obama would have the excuse he needs to do what he really 
wants: nationalize the banks and turn them into credit unions. What a 
hope fiend!"

*Hopebreak*. Like the heartbroken lover, the hopebroken Obama-ite is not 
mad but terribly sad. She projected messianic powers onto Obama and is 
now inconsolable in her disappointment. Sample sentence: "I really 
believed Obama would finally force us to confront the legacy of slavery 
in this country and start a serious national conversation about race. 
But now he never seems to mention race, and he's using twisted legal 
arguments to keep us from even confronting the crimes of the Bush years. 
Every time I hear him say 'move forward,' I'm hopebroken all over again."

*Hopelash*. Like a backlash, hopelash is a 180-degree reversal of 
everything Obama-related. Sufferers were once Obama's most passionate 
evangelists. Now they are his angriest critics. Sample sentence: "At 
least with Bush everyone knew he was an asshole. Now we've got the same 
wars, the same lawless prisons, the same Washington corruption, but 
everyone is cheering like Stepford wives. It's time for a full-on 
hopelash."

In trying to name these various hope-related ailments, I found myself 
wondering what the late Studs Terkel would have said about our 
collective hopeover. He surely would have urged us not to give in to 
despair. I reached for one of his last books, /Hope Dies Last/. I didn't 
have to read long. The book opens with the words: "Hope has never 
trickled down. It has always sprung up."

And that pretty much says it all. Hope was a fine slogan when rooting 
for a long-shot presidential candidate. But as a posture toward the 
president of the most powerful nation on earth, it is dangerously 
deferential. The task as we move forward (as Obama likes to say) is not 
to abandon hope but to find more appropriate homes for it--in the 
factories, neighborhoods and schools where tactics like sit-ins, squats 
and occupations are seeing a resurgence.

Political scientist Sam Gindin wrote recently 
<http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/bullet200.html> that the labor 
movement can do more than protect the status quo. It can demand, for 
instance, that shuttered auto plants be converted into green-future 
factories, capable of producing mass-transit vehicles and technology for 
a renewable energy system. "Being realistic means taking hope out of 
speeches," he wrote, "and putting it in the hands of workers."

Which brings me to the final entry in the lexicon.

*Hoperoots*. Sample sentence: "It's time to stop waiting for hope to be 
handed down, and start pushing it up, from the hoperoots"


    About Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and 
the author of the international and /New York Times/ bestseller /The 
Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism/ (September 2007); an 
earlier international best-seller, /No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand 
Bullies/; and the collection /Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the 
Front Lines of the Globalization Debate/ (2002). more... 
<http://www.thenation.com/directory/bios/naomi_klein>
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