(originally written July 27th, 2008 but not "published")
Not Hollow Men but Hollow Man. The former of course is T.S. Eliot's famous poem which "can be understood as a poem commenting upon the emptiness and futility of war and how war destroys those who have to fight in it. It can also be read as a poem that discusses lives without meaning, an interplay between nihilism and existentialism". Hollow Man is the 2000 science fiction movie adaptation of H.G Well's Invisible Man written in 1897. The Hollow Man or the ""Invisible Man" of the title is Griffen, a scientist who theorizes that if a person's refractive index is changed to exactly that of air and his body does not absorb or reflect light, then he will be invisible." A great believer in science as a vehicle for "change", Griffen successfully carries out this procedure on himself. But he cannot become visible again, and becomes mentally unstable as a result. In other words, he has lost himself in the most literal of all possible ways while becoming invisible to others. Griffen became an anti-social pariah in response. The hopes generated by the millennial potential advances of science turn dark in the hands of "Griffen".
Obama, a candidate for the president of the United States (not the World, Europe, or the UN), is losing himself in the most political and philosophical of ways. His Berlin speech raised more questions than it answered about his substantive values. He continues to generate confusing "tacking to the center" images, while also doubling down on his messianic rhetoric. He seems trapped by an ever increasing requirement and desire to appear as a "great" world leader of "change". He positions himself as the human embodiment of a unique but undefined "invisible" and crucial turning point in history. One senses a disappointment he cannot run for world president. In Europe (with 72% popularity), his self proclaimed case for greatness in the Berlin speech in part was that "he does not look like other previous candidates" and that he is a "citizen" of the world. These are bizarre statements.
This cannot end well. The Berlin spectacle and speech were prima facie evidence he has too large an appetite for glory; in particular global glory, than can be good for the US body politic. Griffen was seduced by science; our Hollow Man is being seduced by a hollow "historical greatness" with no substance other than the idea of greatness itself.
Obama has specialized in the most airy of messianic, vague and weired generalities ("we are the ones we have been waiting for"). He has done this to hide some of his more traditional left wing radical positions in order to appear as some "new" "post-something" transcendent politician. But since he has earned the nomination, his views on many issues have been careening wildly back and forth, particularly in foreign policy. This is called tacking to the center by the incompetent Obama supporting post-modern media, which sees only the contest itself as having meaning. At times his campaign has looked like the political equivalent of I Speak English, I learn it from a book, in it's ridiculous cookbook obviousness. The best way for McCain to win, in my opinion, is to attack his opponent non-stop on every substantive issue. Every contradiction between what is said by Obama and what he may have previously said and done has to be constantly repeated. He has not done enough of this at all. Johnny Mac's conceit has primarily been his "reach across the isle" personna. Obama's main thesis, supported by a compliant media, is his own "specialness". If McCain were to follow the prescriptions above, he would be ahead in this race.
There is a core tendency for America's 2 main political parties to rhetorically and substantively differ from each other in critical ways. Not surprisingly, however, historically they have rhetorically differed more than they have substantively. This is clearly true by any objective analysis of the policies of the 2 parties for the last 60 years. This is probably a good thing. The more similar the parties are, even as they think they are different, the more stable the politics and the system are likely to be. But Obama is a wild card. Some of his unscripted and even scripted statements are off the wall. He acts like he is committed to really be different regardless of what it takes.
This is all by way of introduction and putting in context the message of this essay. I am going to "liveblog" (well, really "youtube blog") Obama's Berlin speech and comment on the substance and spectacle as I watch it. What is disturbing to me about Obama, very disturbing actually, is that a strong case can easily be made that he is the most "radical and populist" of any politician who has been a candidate for President since William Jennings Bryan.
This includes domestic tax and economic policies, an "eat your peas now" imposing social agenda on "good works" and "sacrifice", a cult of personality, and worst of all the desire to pander to populist opinion even internationally at the expense of America's self interest. All candidates get inflated by the act of being watched by millions daily. This provides the adrenalin rush which enables them to work 18/7 (even they sleep). All presidential politicians at some point begin deluding themselves or at least try to delude others into believing, that their's is the most important campaign ever. It just comes with the territory. But there should be limits.